What does a healthy relationship with money look like?
Everyone benefits from having a strong financial role model. But examples of good money behavior can be hard to find, particularly for people raised in families where money was never discussed. Without seeing healthy relationships with money, however, people can get stuck in their own detrimental habits, such as overspending and undersaving. Plus, it’s hard to envision a long-term financial plan without someone illuminating the road ahead.
For those wanting to build a better financial life, the Guardian Study of Financial and Emotional Confidence TM offers inspiration. The 2021 study surveyed over 5,000 full and part-time American workers with median household incomes of $112,000. Over the course of the study, four different financial profiles emerged: Day-to-Day Decision-Makers, Retirement Realists, Ambitious Spenders, and Confident Planners. There’s a broad range of financial habits among these four groups, and when it comes to model behaviors to emulate, the Ambitious Spenders and the Confident Planners lead the way. Here’s why.
Working with a financial professional
Of the approximately 5,000 people who responded to the Study, 32 percent fall into the Ambitious Spenders category. This group tends to be made up of millennials, and they are the most likely to own their own business.
For long-term planning, more than half are currently working with a financial professional to develop their custom financial strategy. Additionally, they embrace healthy risk: over three-fourths (77 percent) say they will assume greater risk in their investments to gain above-average returns. Plus, 83 percent say that they feel more satisfaction when they save extra money rather than spend it. These habits give Ambitious Spenders a high level of confidence in their future ability to retire with their expenses covered, including the unexpected.
A comprehensive financial strategy
Twenty-three percent of the respondents were Confident Planners, largely older members of Generation X. Perhaps the most surprising fact about this group is that their confidence is not solely due to income. Yes, they are the highest-earning group with a mean household income of $183,000. At the same time, their confidence also comes from their deep understanding of the range of financial products available to them. For instance, 77 percent say their financial plans address retirement income planning, and 90 percent say they understand annuities well.
They also excel in saving for the future, as they put aside approximately 23 percent of their annual income. And once they set up their long-term financial strategy, 95 percent confirm that they are good at sticking to it. All these behaviors lead Confident Planners to feel “extremely confident” about retirement.
How to boost your financial confidence
If you’re still feeling hesitant to start a new relationship with money, it may help to remember that you are not alone. The 2021 study found that 37 percent of those surveyed say they avoid dealing with their finances because they find it overwhelming.
People point to all sorts of reasons for this stress, from personal worries to concerns about chaos in the world. No matter what prevents you from making the changes you desire, research shows1 that people are more likely to succeed when they pick a meaningful date to begin. This can be your birthday, or graduation date, or even the first day of the week. To get started, pick your fresh start date to begin a new habit. One action to consider for your Fresh Start date is to call a financial professional to begin discussing your future and financial goals.
If you haven’t had strong financial role models in your life, it can be hard to know how to get better with money, especially for the long term. Embracing the habits of Ambitious Spenders and Confident Planners, like increasing your savings and working with a financial professional to create and write down your financial strategy, can help.
Curious to know to your financial profile? Take our quiz.
1 The Guardian Study of Financial and Emotional Confidence, 2021.
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2022-137601 Exp. 05/2024