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Research and Statistics

Post-recession financial security fails to create optimism for Americans

A new study shows people feel better about their finances than they did 10 years ago, but optimism is flat


The last decade has seen significant upticks in financial security for most Americans. Yet our optimism for achieving the American dream hasn’t budged, according to a study by Northwestern Mutual.

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The last decade has seen significant upticks in financial security for most Americans. Yet our optimism for achieving the American dream hasn’t budged.

Northwestern Mutual surveyed adults age 25 and older in 2009 about their feelings of financial security and their outlook on their financial future, then repeated the survey in 2019 with adults age 35 and older.

What they found was that feelings of financial security rose sharply over the 10 years, from less than half saying they felt financially secure (47 percent) to 71 percent saying the same in 2019.

See related:  Young consumers rebound from recession-era lull in card ownership

In addition, almost three-quarters of respondents (74 percent) said they are carrying less debt than they were in 2009, and 88 percent said their 2019 money habits are better than they were a decade ago.

Financial goal-setting was also up, from 57 percent reporting in 2009 that they have set 5-10 year financial goals to 66 percent in 2019.

But despite all this progress, fewer of the 2019 respondents believe the American dream is attainable for most people, down from 58 percent in 2009 to 54 percent in 2019. And the percentage who believe they will get where they want to be in life has held flat at 65 percent.

Northwestern Mutual’s 2019 Planning & Progress Study was conducted on its behalf by the Harris Poll, surveying 2,003 American adults in February and March 2019. Findings highlighted here were based on 1,289 interviews among respondents age 35 and older, with Census demographic-weighted results released May 17.

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