Nearly half of those considering a financial resolution for 2012 say saving more is their top priority, with a median annual target of $2,400 for long- and short-term goals, double last year's goal of $1,200, according to Fidelity Investments' annual study of Americans financial goals for the year.
For the third consecutive year, the top two resolutions are: saving more (46%) and spending less (21%). However, paying off debt jumped into the top three with 19 percent considering this goal for 2012, replacing making a budget. Paying off debt was the seventh most popular resolution last year, with 8 percent of those with financial resolutions considering it.
Based upon this year's survey findings, Americans are already taking this resolution seriously, with nearly one-third (29 percent) saying they are in less debt today compared with the same time last year.
Boston-based financial services company Fidelity Investments has assets under administration of $3.4 trillion, including managed assets of $1.5 trillion, as of Oct. 31.
"The results of this survey indicate that many Americans are continuing to put their financial houses back in order with some very positive financial strategies," said Ken Hevert, vice president, Fidelity Investments.
In a year-over-year comparison, respondents continue to indicate that saving for long-term goals (62 percent) outweighs short-term goals (34 percent). The top long-term goal cited was saving more for retirement in an individual retirement account (IRA), or workplace savings plan (52 percent). This goal was followed by saving for college (45 percent) and retiree health care costs (37 percent).
Key short-term savings goals shifted from last year, showing a change in priorities for many respondents. The biggest increases were seen in saving for a household upgrade or repair, up significantly to 45 percent from 25 percent last year, building an emergency fund, up to 65 percent from 50 percent last year, and saving for a home, up to 32 percent from 22 percent last year. Significant decreases were found in saving for a vehicle purchase, down to 35 percent from 57 percent last year, or saving for a luxury item, down to 5 percent from 19 percent last year.
With an estimated 84 percent of respondents saying that the economy is already in or likely to suffer a double-dip recession, investor confidence has been shaken. In fact, nearly four in ten (39 percent) say they are not confident in their ability to make the right investment decisions given the current economy and market volatility.
On the other hand, market conditions are also having a positive effect on many Americans. More than 8-in-10 (85 percent) Americans who are resolved to save more say their current savings behavior is likely to continue as the economy recovers. This is up from 80 percent last year.
Additionally, 66 percent of those considering a financial resolution say the economic events of the past year will help them stick with the resolutions made in 2011.
"There is no better time to commit to a new financial goal than with the start of a New Year," said Hevert. "Regardless of the goal, Fidelity can provide the guidance, tools and resources to help investors achieve success in 2012 and beyond."