Americans are ready to shake off the doom and gloom of the recession to focus on fun and relaxation, knocking "saving more money" down their list of top priorities for 2011, an annual New Year's resolution survey by TD Ameritrade found.
Twenty-seven percent of respondents said they are less likely to make New Year's resolutions about their personal finances this year than last year, saying their health and well-being are simply more important.
"People are talking more about having fun this year, and that really goes to show that Americans are showing signs of optimism in terms of their perception of financial markets and the state of the economy," says Nicole Sherrod, managing director of the trader group at TD Ameritrade. "They no longer want to reflect on the past."
The findings are a sharp contrast to those during the peak of the recession, when "save more money" was the top resolution and economic fear and uncertainty drove many to act on their financial plans, Sherrod says. The return to seeking out health and wellness — losing weight, spending more time with family — shows Americans are ready to turn their focus back to a balanced lifestyle.
That doesn't mean that financial goals are suffering: 75 percent of respondents said they plan to make at least one financial-related resolution for 2011, the same percentage as last year. More encouragingly, financial goals like saving money, reducing spending and building retirement savings are all showing year-over-year improvements, Sherrod says. "They're not sacrificing financial fitness for a more well-rounded life — what we're seeing is less obsession."
But financial jitters still linger: 55 percent of respondents said their financial outlook is "uncertain," though they're hopeful the economy is on the rebound, an outlook more common among women and younger Americans.
Women's improving confidence may have something to do with their renewed commitment to reaching financial goals. A separate TD Ameritrade survey found that women are ramping up their savings efforts and are gaining more confidence in their ability to meet financial goals.
Less than a quarter of said they are pessimistic about the financial outlook.