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The 2023 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 States of America

Two-thirds (67%) of U.S. adults expect the economy will enter into recession later this year – a key finding from Northwestern Mutual’s newly released 2023 Planning & Progress Study exploring Americans’ attitudes and behaviors toward their finances.

For those who see a recession looming, one-third (33%) say it will be short-lived, lasting a year or less, while one-fifth (19%) say it will last more than two years. And among those anticipating a recession, three out of four expect it to have a high or moderate impact on both their near-term (78%) and longer-term (75%) finances.

According to the research, most Americans are responding to economic uncertainty with action, making adjustments – small and large – to their financial priorities and choices.

Cutting costs tops list of measures being taken to address economic uncertainty

The top three steps people are taking include cutting costs (64%), building up savings (50%), and postponing large expenses until the economy is on more stable footing (41%). Even high-net-worth individuals – those with total household investable assets greater than $1 million – are building up savings (50%) and postponing large expenses (38%).

Personal savings are up… but not quite as high as inflation

This year’s study finds that, on average, Americans’ personal savings (excluding retirement assets) stand at $65,100 – a nearly 5% increase over the $62,000 reported last year, but short of the 6.5% inflation rate the U.S. economy saw in 2022.

Meanwhile, despite the Federal Reserve’s campaign to fight inflation by raising interest rates, more than half (54%) of Americans say they expect inflation to increase further this year versus 19% who say it will decrease and 27% who say it will stay the same.

Inflation and recession are top financial concerns for most people

Not surprisingly, inflation (51%) and recession (26%) came in as people’s top financial concerns this year. Interestingly, coming in at #3 is an issue that has receded somewhat from the news cycle – gas prices (24%).

Gen Z agrees that inflation (38%) is the top financial concern. More than six in 10 (61%) of America’s youngest adults believe inflation will increase this year, with only 15% saying it will decrease. However, they say their next greatest financial worries are gas prices (26%), climate change (22%) and job stability (21%).

Uncertainty impacts younger people differently than older

Economic uncertainty is leading the majority of Americans (60%) to postpone plans and purchases of one kind or another. More than a third (36%) of people say they are postponing daily purchases like meals out, new clothes and event tickets. Three in 10 (29%) say they are shelving large purchases or projects like remodeling a home or buying a new car. For younger adults, the postponements also include putting some big life decisions on pause.


Gen Z


Gen X


Buying or building a new home





Changing jobs / searching for a new job





Starting a business





Getting married





Having / adopting children





Planning and risk

There is an exact 50/50 split between how people approach financial planning in America. Half of U.S. adults say they are disciplined, with 20% identifying as highly disciplined planners and 30% as disciplined. The other half identify as undisciplined, with 36% saying their planning is informal and 15% saying they don’t plan at all.

The good news is that a large majority (70%) of Americans say they have clarity on exactly how much they can spend now versus save for later. The number jumps to 83% for those who work with a financial advisor. About six in seven (86%) of those who identify as disciplined or highly disciplined planners feel this same financial confidence.

When it comes to risk, 63% of Americans say they’re very or somewhat tolerant of financial risk in their investments. Interestingly, comfort with risk goes up for people who work with advisors (71%), those who consider themselves disciplined or highly disciplined planners (72%) and high-net-worth individuals (79%).

The study found that just over half (52%) of U.S. adults say they have a financial plan that factors for up and down economic cycles over time. That compares to 84% of high-net-worth individuals who say the same, and 79% for those who work with an advisor.


Read the news release
Read the 2023 Planning and Progress Study - The Financial States of America