Americans have become more optimistic about their finances despite flattening asset growth, according to a recent study from Rye, N.Y.-based financial consumer research firm Hearts & Wallets.
In fact, Hearts & Wallets found that Americans were saving more in general and placing greater emphasis on building their emergency funds after the relatively flat growth of their investable assets and retirement assets in 2015.
Year-over-year, investors’ outlook on the economy improved as their anxieties eased, according to the firm’s Investor Quantitative Database, an annual survey of more than 5,000 U.S. households.
The number of respondents expressing financial anxiety has declined from 17 percent in 2012 to 12 percent in 2016. While anxiety decreased among all wealth segments, older respondents were less anxious than young people, according to the firm’s analysis.
Yet almost two-thirds of the survey’s respondents, 62 percent, say they wish they were doing a better job of saving. Less than one-third of the survey participants, 31 percent, felt their retirement savings were on track—a drop of 7 percentage points from two years ago.
Even though they know enough to save more, Americans in general are uncertain about how to plan for their financial future.
And they’re not necessarily seeking out advisors for answers. Hearts & Wallets found that trust remains a serious barrier to accessing financial advice. Nearly half of the respondents, 44 percent, said they were afraid of being ripped off by financial professionals.
In 2016, the respondents’ aggregate investable assets were flat overall, according to the survey, after steady increases over the previous seven years. One bright spot was an increase in the number of households with net worth between $50,000 and $250,000. According to Hearts & Wallets, an estimated 700,000 U.S. households have achieved those levels of investable assets.
In a statement, the firm’s CEO Laura Varas said that this year, rather than focusing on investing, Americans are concerned about savings.
“Consumers are focusing on the bird in the hand, their emergency fund, but are very aware of the bird in the bush and, with their improving mind set, know they need to do more to build their retirement funds and overall savings,” said Varas. “In general, U.S. households are feeling better, but there is a nagging undercurrent for something more. Few households made money last year. Some are caught between the fear of losing capital and missing growth. It’s a great opportunity for financial providers who understand the mind set and challenges of specific target groups to design solutions that meet their needs.”