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The 2022 Planning & Progress Study, an annual research study from Northwestern Mutual, explores U.S. adults’ attitudes and behaviors toward money, financial decision-making, and the broader issues impacting people’s long-term financial security.

Financial Adaptation

More than two years into the pandemic, Americans have adapted to a new normal in their financial lives – they’ve improved their financial habits and expect them to stick; they’ve accounted for emergencies and risks; and they have far more confidence in themselves than the economy. That said, financial discipline isn’t at the level it was last year and personal savings have started to dwindle.

These are some of the findings from the 2022 Planning & Progress Study, an annual research report commissioned by Northwestern Mutual that explores Americans’ attitudes and behaviors toward money, financial decision-making and broader issues impacting their long-term financial security.

The study finds that over 60% of US adults say the pandemic has been highly disruptive to the way they manage their finances. Among them, a significant majority (48%) say they have been able to adapt while 13% say they have not.


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Ground Has Been Recovered but Savings Are Beginning to Dwindle

More than four in ten (43%) US adults say they made up for lost ground incurred financially during the first year of the pandemic, compared to 30% who say they haven’t and 27% who say they didn’t lose any ground in 2020. Among the 43% who have made up lost ground:

  • 10% say they made up all of it and more, and they are now ahead of where they expected to be financially
  • 12% say they made it up entirely and are fully back on track financially
  • 21% say they made up some of the ground lost in 2020 but are not fully back on track financially yet

One well-documented response to the pandemic has been the impulse to save, and the 2022 Planning & Progress Study backs that up – a solid majority (60%) say they’ve been able to build up their personal savings over the last two years, and 69% of those say they plan to maintain their new saving rate going forward. That said, year-over-year numbers show that while savings levels remain high, they’ve dropped 15% from last year.


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  • Average amount of personal savings in 2021 – $73,000
  • Average amount of personal savings in 2022 – $62,000

Better Habits and Bigger Picture Planning but Some Wavering Behaviors

Three quarters (73%) of US adults say they’ve adopted better financial habits as a result of the pandemic. Among them, an equal three quarters (73%) expect to maintain those habits going forward. While that number is relatively high, it’s below the 95% who said the same in 2021. Digging deeper, the top five behaviors adopted in 2022 underscore a commitment to discipline but at slightly lower levels than last year: 

Top 5 Behaviors Adopted

2021

2022

Reduce living costs/spending

45%

35%

Pay down debt

34%

22%

Increase investing

33%

19%

Increase use of tech to manage finances

28%

19%

Regularly revisit financial plans

29%

17%

 

Overall, a significant number of people report taking a more comprehensive and holistic approach to their financial planning – 44% say they have adjusted to account for bigger picture emergencies and risks.

And by and large, Americans report high levels of comfort in how they manage spending and saving. The numbers jump even higher for those who get professional help:

  • 71% say they have good clarity on exactly how much they can afford to spend now versus how much they should be saving for later
  • 82% of people who work with an advisor have good clarity on exactly how much they can afford to spend now versus how much they should be saving for later

Confidence in Themselves, Skepticism About Most Other Things

The research finds that people have significantly greater confidence in themselves than they do in the US economy or the American Dream.

  • 72% say they have had/will have a successful career
  • 66% say they have achieved/will achieve long-term financial security
  • 60% say they will have enough money to retire when the time comes
  • 68% say their planning incorporates the possibility of unplanned emergencies

While only…

  • 43% say the US economy is strong
  • 35% say inflation will subside in 2022
  • 56% say Social Security will be there when they need it
  • 55% say the American Dream is still alive and well

When asked about their greatest obstacles to reaching financial security in retirement, people say inflation and the economy are #1 and #2. The top five include:

  • Inflation – 41%
  • The economy – 39%
  • Lack of savings – 29%
  • Personal debt – 26%
  • Healthcare costs – 22%

 

Read the news release
Download the 2022 Planning and Progress Study – Financial Adaptation