Each year, I make the same New Year’s resolution. Like many Americans, I never achieve my goal.
So, what’s my resolution? It’s ambitious: Convince Americans to make more resolutions about their money than anything else. Focus on losing debt before losing weight. Focus on gaining money before gaining muscle mass.
That’s why Debt.com has this winter slogan: “New Year, No Debt.” It’s also why we poll a couple of thousand Americans each year about their financial goals.
You can read the results in our 2019 New Year, No Debt research report, which has revealed some intriguing facts. My second favorite: More than 40 percent would rather pay off their credit cards or student loans than lose 10 pounds. (Read on for my first favorite fact our poll revealed.)
Debt.com polled more than 2,000 people, and even though they weren’t evenly distributed across the country, I had fun looking at both the age and state-by-state breakdown. While these results aren’t scientific, they’re still interesting…
Young people plan ahead
I’ve written often about millennials, and how we need to stop sneering at the stereotypes we’ve laid upon them. In even broader terms, I’m encouraged by all young people and their commitment to getting out of debt.
In our poll, 56 percent of respondents 18 to 24 had set financial goals as their resolutions. That’s impressive, considering our stereotype that Americans between those ages only care about pricey “life experiences” that will impress their friends on Instagram.
Equally surprising is that Americans in their prime (ages 25 to 44) were even more enthusiastic about financial resolutions – 77 percent had made them.
Where you live and what you owe
While state-by-state responses weren’t scientific enough for us to include in Debt.com’s research section, they still confirmed something I’ve long believed: You can’t look at the debts of a state government and draw conclusions about the debts of its residents.
For instance, we asked, “What’s your biggest financial regret from 2018?” One answer was often repeated: Running up or maxing out credit cards. Arizonans topped the list at 48 percent, followed by Floridians, Georgians, and Missourians, all at 46 percent.
States that have historically and publicly struggled with their public debt were further down the list. California ranked 10th, New Jersey was 16th, and New York was 20th.
Personal debt is just that. It’s personal. Which means it doesn’t take a village to become financially independent. It takes personal effort, perhaps with expert help. That leads to my last point.
My favorite stat
Let me end with a poll result that sounds depressing, but I find encouraging.
Debt.com asked those who don’t make debt resolutions: Why not? The second most popular answer (after the 28 percent who said they simply don’t work) was the 10 percent who said this: “My finances are so bad that I can’t figure out where to start.”
In this answer, I see opportunity.
Why is that? Because there’s a proven way to start, it’s been around for decades, it works, and it costs nothing. Sadly, few Americans know about credit counseling. Many who do think it’s too good to be true. How can a nonprofit credit counseling agency offer me a free debt analysis from a certified counselor who has to pass a test every two years? What’s the catch?
There is no catch. Learn more by reading Debt.com’s report on Credit Counseling. Then make a New Year’s resolution that’s simple to keep: Pick up the phone and call a counselor.