BLOOMINGTON, Ill., April 29, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- As the COVID-19 pandemic spreads across the United States, shuttering businesses and driving millions to file for unemployment, Americans' finances are being hit harder than ever.
According to a new COUNTRY Financial® survey, nearly half (49 percent) of Americans say their level of financial security is worse since the COVID-19 pandemic began. One-third (33 percent) admit they were not financially prepared for a pandemic.
While the pandemic has set many Americans back, it also presents an opportunity to regroup and get on the right financial track.
"If you haven't developed a financial plan, now is the time to kick planning into high gear and assess what your short-term and long-term goals are," said Troy Frerichs, Vice President of Investment Services at COUNTRY Financial. "If you have developed a plan but haven't been good about keeping to your goals, now is the time to re-commit and work on developing better personal financial habits."
Americans Shift Priorities & Rely on Stimulus Checks to Get By
In light of the recent pandemic, many Americans are prioritizing day-to-day survival over long-term financial goals. The survey found that approximately 4 in 10 (45 percent) Americans say their top financial goal since the pandemic hit is to pay day-to-day expenses, followed by saving for an emergency fund (27 percent), saving for retirement (16 percent) and investing in the stock market (5 percent).
Americans' plans for their stimulus checks also reflect these changing priorities, with most who expect a check saying they'll spend it on everyday expenses (38 percent), while others plan to put the funds towards a mortgage or rent (15 percent). Only 22 percent plan to save or invest their stimulus check.
"This is an incredibly difficult time for so many Americans because we have never experienced a pandemic like this before," Frerichs continued. "At a time when we feel like so much is out of our control, we have to focus on what is in our power, which is how much we spend and what we save. Cut spending where you can and concentrate on paying bills on time to avoid a buildup of debt and fees that will have to be paid later."
Ways to Take Your Finances into Your Own Hands
While so much remains uncertain, Americans still have the power to take the following steps to improve their finances during this time:
- Develop a budget: The pandemic is forcing many Americans to make hard choices – particularly cutting expenses – so it's more important than ever to use this time of uncertainty to establish a budget and commit to living within your means.
- Create an emergency fund: Many Americans struggled to build an emergency fund even before the pandemic, but an emergency fund is now more important than ever. If our current financial situation gets worse before it gets better, Americans need to have money set aside that they can lean back on in a last resort. If you don't currently have an emergency fund, try to set aside as much as you can every month and aim to build enough to cover between three-six months of living expenses.
- Explore opportunities to lower interest rates: The pandemic has led to lower interest rates, which may provide a great opportunity for some to get closer to their financial goals, such as paying off debt or lowering a mortgage payment. Connect with a financial representative and lenders to explore all of your options; just be sure to read the fine print and take any associated costs into consideration before making any decisions.
- Evaluate your long-term goals: While many of us are just thinking about how to get by right now, it's important to look beyond the pandemic as well. Talk with your financial representative about where you stand with your long-term goals and review your strategy for achieving them.
The challenges brought on by the pandemic mean Americans need to be more disciplined than ever when committing to these steps. A financial representative can help by identifying opportunities available to you during the pandemic, putting a plan into place for reaching your short-term and long-term goals, and suggesting strategies to help you stick to that plan.
To learn more, visit the COVID-19 information page on the COUNTRY Financial website.
About the COUNTRY Financial Security Index®
Since 2007, the COUNTRY Financial Security Index has measured Americans' sentiments of their personal financial security. The Index also delves deeper into individual personal finance topics to better inform Americans about the issues impacting their finances. View past surveys in the COUNTRY Financial Security Index newsroom.
The COUNTRY Financial Security Index was created by COUNTRY Financial and is compiled by Ipsos an independent research firm. Surveys were conducted using Ipsos' KnowledgePanel®, a national, probability-based panel designed to be representative of the general population and includes responses from approximately 1,025 U.S. adults for national surveys. The margin of sampling error for a survey based on this many interviews is approximately +/- 3 percentage points with a 95 percent level of confidence.
About COUNTRY Financial®
The COUNTRY Financial® group (www.countryfinancial.com) serves about one million households and businesses throughout the United States. It offers a wide range of financial products and services from auto, home, business and life insurance to retirement planning services, investment management and annuities.
Visit COUNTRY Financial on Twitter @HelloCountry, on Facebook @COUNTRYFinancial and on Instagram @countryfinancial.
About Ipsos Public Affairs
Ipsos is an independent market research company controlled and managed by research professionals. Founded in France in 1975, Ipsos has grown into a worldwide research group with a strong presence in all key markets. Ipsos ranks third in the global research industry. At Ipsos we are passionately curious about people, markets, brands and society. We make our changing world easier and faster to navigate and inspire clients to make smarter decisions. We deliver with security, speed, simplicity and substance. We are Game Changers. With offices in 88 countries, Ipsos delivers insightful expertise across six research specializations: advertising, customer loyalty, marketing, media, public affairs research, and survey management. Ipsos researchers assess market potential and interpret market trends. We develop and build brands. We help clients build long-term relationships with their customers. We test advertising and study audience responses to various media and they measure public opinion around the globe. Visit www.ipsos.com/en-us to learn more about Ipsos' offerings and capabilities.
SOURCE COUNTRY Financial