It’s a running joke that some people put off until tomorrow what they could accomplish today. However, for some people it’s no laughing matter that they believe they’re forced to put off high-priority tasks until another time because they simply don’t have enough money.
That mindset (and likely financial reality) means that many Americans are building a list of very important to-dos because they lack financial means. That puts them in a situation that could lead to increased stress, emotional instability and strained relationships.
In short, it’s not healthy to put off important life decisions.
It’s All Because Of Money
According to a recent survey from the American Institute of CPAs, more than half (51 percent) of Americans have put off a major decision due to financial anxiety. That’s a full 20 percent increase from the same survey conducted in 2007.
It should be noted, however, that the country experienced a major recession in 2008. Since then, the recovery has been weak with predominantly anemic job growth and GDP expansion. The overall state of the economy has caused many Americans to worry more about financial priorities.
What decisions were delayed? College education topped the list with 24 percent of those surveyed putting it off for financial concerns. That’s particularly disturbing because it creates a less educated future generation, further diminishing American competitiveness on a global scale.
Buying a home came in at a close second. Twenty-two percent of respondents said that they held off the purchase of a new home in just the past year for financial concerns.
Nineteen percent decided to put aside an expensive medical procedure out of a concern for their financial health. That might lead to a further call for a single-payer health care system or an expansion of Medicaid in states that currently haven’t offered it.
Some Americans (18 percent) are also delaying their retirement. They’ll be working through at least part of their golden years instead of spending them on a beach somewhere.
One of the more surprising stats revealed in the survey is that 12 percent of respondents have decided to put off marriage because of financial reasons.
What Caused the Financial Concerns?
There are numerous reasons why Americans have decided that they are too financially weak to pursue major decisions. The primary reason is no surprise: a lack of savings. Sixty percent of those surveyed said they didn’t have a big enough nest egg to move forward with certain milestones.
Exactly half cited concerns about the U.S. economy as a reason for putting off an important decision. Thirty-nine percent of respondents cited difficulty paying existing monthly bills as a reason to not move forward, that was followed by existing medical bills (29 percent), the need to take care of relatives (29 percent), the higher priority item of paying down credit card debt (28 percent), concerns about losing a job (27 percent), and difficulty managing mortgage payments (25 percent).
Ernie Almonte is the chair of the AICPA’s National CPA Financial Literacy Commission. He believes that the recession has made life particularly challenging for many Americans.
“When you peel the onion back, you start to see that what they have experienced—their parents, friends losing their homes or jobs, or people in so much debt they file for bankruptcy—stuck with them,” he said. “People are looking at things now and saying ‘I don’t have enough savings for that’ or ‘I will put it off for a year or two until I’m financially stable.’”
Some good news, however, did come out of the survey. Almost all (85 percent) of respondents said that they made positive changes to their spending and saving habits since the recession began.