As we ring in the year 2015, Americans are most concerned about losing weight and gaining financial wisdom, according to a survey conducted this fall. Weight loss and being more careful with money are popular New Year’s resolutions for Americans.
The practice of making New Year’s resolutions can be traced back 4,000 years to the ancient Babylonians who made promises to the gods at the start of each year, although for them, the new year started in March. Ancient Romans also rang in the New Year by making resolutions in March, until the New Year shifted to Jan.1 sometime around 300 B.C..
The ancient tradition continues in America where approximately 4 out of every 10 adults in the United States expect to make New Year’s resolutions.
“I think they’re a good way to get people to be thoughtful, mindful,” said Jean from Virginia. “For me, in terms of resolutions, it’s taking some actions that I haven’t done much before which includes things like writing notes to people.”
Sean, an accountant from San Francisco, California, makes resolutions on his birthday, the start of a new year for him.
“Usually they revolve around just kind of general, balancing lifestyle, fitness, refocusing on personal relationships and sometimes financial things as well,” he said.
Americans are most concerned about their waistlines, but they’re also worried about their wallets, according to Charles Schwab, a brokerage and banking company based in San Francisco, California.
Judy, from San Diego, California, is retired, and thanks to good financial planning and a frugal lifestyle, is comfortable. But that’s not necessarily the case with some of her friends.
“They’re concerned about making ends meet including paying rent,” she said. “I think now, with the ACA (Affordable Care Act), they feel a little better able to afford medical care but many, because of the nature of their very low income and minimum wage jobs, have trouble with that as well.”
More than half of Americans feel they are not on top of their finances and more than one-third would like to straighten out their money issues, according to the Schwab survey.
Americans are so concerned about money that more than half preferred to receive cash for Christmas to pay off credit cards. The average indebted US household carries about $15,000 in credit card debt, according to Federal Reserve statistics and other government data.
American Express said recently that many Americans don’t have enough savings to buffer them from common emergencies and that more than forty percent of Americans struggle to pay bills and credit card payments.
“Living in America these days is not cheap, it’s not easy, so I don’t feel personally that it’s any fault of anyone’s own that they’re living paycheck to paycheck,” said Sean, the accountant from San Francisco. “That is the nature of some of the industries that we have and how they’re currently structured.”
Thirty-six percent of Americans surveyed say if they could hire a professional to improve one aspect of their life, they’d choose a financial planner.
Michael and Jennifer from Huntsville, Alabama, started seeing a financial adviser at the end of 2014.
“We’ve planned for our future,” Michael said. “Our goal is basically to save enough and retire by the age of 60.”
Both feel confident they’ll be able to weather any unexpected financial storms.
“I think we’ve prepared enough that even if one of us were to lose our jobs we’d still be able to afford our mortgage,” Jennifer said. “We’d still have to cut back in a few areas but we’d still be comfortable and I think we’ve chosen to live like that. We’re not house poor and we’re not significantly in debt and we’ve made those decisions just in case because you never know what the future holds.”
Making a New Year’s resolution and following through on it are two very different things. While about 45 percent of Americans make New Year’s resolutions, a University of Scranton study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology found that only about 8 percent actually succeed in reaching their stated goals.