A recent YouGov survey asked 1,000 U.S. adult citizens about their financial priorities, who they turn to for financial advice, their feelings around money, and how their parents’ approach to finances may have affected their own. The poll found that women and adults under 30 are less likely to be investing their money, and slightly more likely to feel anxiety about their personal finances.
About two in five (43%) American adults say they have money invested in the stock market, either as an individual or jointly with their spouse. Men (47%) are more likely than women (40%) to say they have money invested in stocks. There is also a significant age gap here: While just 33% of adults under 30 have funds invested in the stock market, 54% of those 65 and older do.
Members of families with an annual income of $100,000 or more are most likely to invest, at 85%, compared to 46% for members of families with income between $50,000 and $100,000, and 27% among people with family income of less than $50,000.
Men are more likely than women to prioritize investing; more women prioritize saving. Men (62%) are more likely than women (55%) to say that investing is somewhat or very important to them right now in terms of what they do with their money. Nearly all women (94%) say that saving money is somewhat or very important to them right now, an opinion shared by 85% of men. Men and women are similarly likely to say spending their money is important to them right now, at 50% and 47%, respectively. They’re also similarly likely to see donating as an important part of the financial picture: 46% of men say this, compared to 51% of women.
Asked what is the most important thing for them to do with their money right now, women (78%) are far more likely than men (58%) to say saving. Men (24%) are twice as likely as women (11%) to say investing is their most important priority.
While saving is the top financial priority for most Americans, some might be interested in investing but face roadblocks.
The most common reason people give for not investing is, “I don’t have the funds to invest,” at 45%. This is named as a reason by nearly half (49%) of women who don’t invest, as well as 41% of men who don’t invest. Another common reason given by non-investors is that investing feels too risky. Among Americans who don't invest, one-third (32%) of women and 29% of men say this is true for them. Many — including 30% of women and 24% of men — say it’s because they don’t know enough about investing to participate. Among women who don’t invest, 31% say it’s because they feel safer saving their money rather than investing. A smaller percentage of non-investing men (23%) share this concern.
But investing isn’t the only way for people to reach their financial goals, which are something 68% of Americans say they have. Those who own stocks (82%) are more likely than those who don’t (56%) to say they have financial goals. Women (71%) are slightly more likely than men (64%) to say they have financial goals.
Among Americans who have financial goals, 64% are somewhat or very confident about their ability to reach them. Men (68%) are more likely than women (60%) to say they’re confident about reaching their financial goals.
Men and women are also similarly likely to say they generally feel confident making financial decisions, at 73% and 71%, respectively.
Majorities across age groups say they feel somewhat or very confident making financial decisions. Americans who are 65 or older are the most likely to express confidence, at 82%. Among adults under 30, 64% say they feel confident in their financial decision-making, though 27% say they feel not very or not at all confident about this.
But despite reasonably high confidence levels, most Americans (62%) experience anxiety about their personal finances, with 21% saying they are very anxious about this. Women (66%) are more likely than men (58%) to say they feel anxious about their personal finances.
Among Americans who are part of a family earning under $50,000 annually, 65% say they are anxious about their personal finances, with 27% saying they are very anxious. But high earners aren’t immune to financial anxiety: 61% of Americans with a family income of $100,000 or more say they feel anxious about their personal finances.
For many people, their financial know-how started at home. Nearly half (46%) say that their parents taught them how to manage their personal finances.
How people perceive their parents' financial confidence level might be tied to how confident a person feels managing their own finances. Among the 56% of Americans who said they think their parents feel or felt confident about making financial decisions, 81% say they also feel somewhat confident making money decisions. Among the 24% who say their own parents were not very or not at all confident, fewer (66%) express confidence in their own financial know-how.
Similarly, parents with financial anxiety may be more likely to raise children who eventually experience increased financial anxiety. Among the 49% of Americans who say they believe their parents were or are anxious about finances, 75% say they also are very or somewhat anxious about their personal finances. American adults who say their parents were not very or not at all anxious (30% of Americans) are less likely to experience financial anxiety themselves, at 52%.
Parents aren’t the only source of financial lessons. One in five Americans (21%) say they learned how to manage their personal finances from other family members, and 20% say “no one” taught them about this. A similar percentage (19%) got their knowledge from the internet and online research, 16% learned from a current or former partner, and 15% turned to a financial advisor.
As for who they turn to for financial advice now, the most common answer is “my partner,” at 28%. Women (31%) are more likely than men (24%) to say they turn to a partner for financial advice. Another 22% of Americans say they consult a financial advisor, and 21% turn to the internet or to “no one.” One in five — including 23% of women and 16% of men — turn to their parents.
Who do Americans feel comfortable discussing their finances with? Majorities say they would be comfortable discussing this with their partner (66%), their bank (61%), a financial advisor (59%), and their immediate family (56%). Half are comfortable talking about this with their parents, with men (54%) being more likely than women to say this (46%).
Fewer than half (47%) are comfortable discussing their personal finances with their close friends, though men (50%) are more likely than women (44%) to say they’re somewhat or very comfortable with this. About one in five Americans (22%) are comfortable discussing their financial situation with their coworkers, and 15% would be comfortable discussing this topic with a stranger.
Additionally, respondents were able to share their financial goals for the year. Many wrote that they want to pay down debts from credit cards or medical expenses, while others shared plans to build up their savings. Some have ambitions of creating more income for themselves, and others are focused on long-term investments and buying property.
— Linley Sanders, Taylor Orth, and Carl Bialik contributed to this article.
Related: After its recent crash, few Americans see cryptocurrency as a good investment
This poll was conducted on July 27 - 29, 2022 among 1,000 U.S. adult citizens. Explore more on the methodology and data for this YouGov poll.
Image: Adobe Stock (Monkey Business)