More Americans (39% vs. 35% in 2012) say they are financially "optimistic" going into 2013, while 10% (vs. 6%) report they are "unconcerned," according to the latest American Express Spending & Saving Tracker. In the New Year, consumers hope to save more, but don't plan to hold on to their wallets too tightly. More people (26% vs. 22% in 2012) plan to boost spending on leisure travel and many hope to spend more on clothes and accessories (28% vs. 23% last year) home redecoration (24% vs. 23%), dinners out (19% vs. 14%) and entertainment (19% vs. 14%). Big ticket purchases include buying a car (26%), house (8%), major household appliance (17%) and undergoing significant home renovations (11%).
Surveyed at the end of December, consumers reported the uptick in optimism and planned spending increases despite pending uncertainty of the Fiscal Cliff negotiations. Seventy-four percent of Americans (87% among affluents) said they were aware of the Fiscal Cliff, and 59% (64% among affluents) expected the outcome to affect them personally.
Financial Priorities in 2013: The Year to Stash Cash
But while more expect to spend more, Americans still named saving money (57%) as a top intention for 2013, along with spending more time with family/friends (51%) and upping their exercise routine (42%). However, when the survey zoomed in on financial goals, they indicated a shift from last year's priorities. More consumers say finding a job or finding a better job (19% vs. 14% in 2012) is their top financial goal, while last year the top spot was significantly reducing or paying off debt—now number two on the priority list (17% vs. 19%).
Last year, consumers saved an average of $5,906, $1,727 shy of their $7,633 goal. Going into 2013, consumers raised the bar, setting this year's savings goal at an average of $10,893. Affluents are raising it even higher, expecting to save $22,660 in 2013 (vs. $14,445 in 2012). More Americans (89% vs. 82% in 2012) have a strategy to reach their 2013 savings goal, including saving from primary income (51%), 2012 tax returns (26%) and paring back on little luxuries like morning lattes and manicures (23%). Taking optimism one step further 21% of Americans hope to win the lottery.
While more consumers than last year say they are optimistic going into the New Year, Americans are still split when it comes to their financial state of mind. Those who say they feel optimistic (39%), unconcerned (10%) or indulgent (2%) about finances account for just over half of Americans (51%), while the other half says they feel frugal (21%), frightened (14%) and pessimistic (12%).
The Year to: Travel, Even if it Means Going Alone
Consistent with last year, just over half (55%) expect to travel for fun this year. Among affluents, 77% expect at least one leisure trip. Overall, the majority of leisure travelers aren't cutting their travel budgets, as 87% expect to spend more or the same on trips this year. A good amount of that budget will be allocated to airfare, as 74% of leisure travelers (89% among affluents) plan to fly to at least one destination in 2013.
This year's trips aren't as premeditated as last year. As of December, 50% of leisure travelers had planned or booked travel for 2013, down from 57% the same time last year.
The survey also bodes well for kids; more parents (60% vs. 52% in 2012) expect to bring their children along for the ride this year. At the other end of the spectrum, more and more adults plan to forgo travel companions all together. In a growing trend, 12% of travelers expect to travel for fun on their own, up significantly from 7% the year before.
The Year to: Dive into Digital
Digital devices continue to infuse into our daily lives, as more consumers say they'll spend more or the same on items including:
- Televisions (49% vs. 44% in 2012)
- Tablets or e-book readers (48% vs. 42%)
- Video game systems and games (45% vs. 39%)
- Cameras or camcorders (45% vs. 41%)
- Portable media players (44% vs. 38%)
Additionally, almost half of consumers (48%) say they own a smartphone. In addition to phone calls, text messaging, checking email, taking photos and browsing social media, many say they use their smartphones to manage finances on a monthly basis. This includes mobile banking (41%), checking credit card balances (28%), shopping and making purchases (28%), paying bills (27%) and managing investments (11%).
The American Express Spending & Saving Tracker research was completed online among a random sample of 1508 adults, including the general U.S. population, an affluent demographic, defined by a minimum annual household income of $100,000. Interviewing was conducted by Echo Research between December 18 and December 20, 2012. These findings have a margin of error of ± 2.5 percentage points at the 95% level of confidence.
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