Americas Business

Two-thirds of Americans have decreased spending due to economy, Wells Fargo Money Study finds

SAN FRANCISCO–(BUSINESS WIRE)– When asked how Americans are faring financially, most admitted to having to make major adjustments due to the economy, according to the inaugural Wells Fargo Money Study. Two-thirds (67%) of Americans say that they’ve cut back on spending, and almost half (45%) say they’ve put some life plans on hold. A third (35%) have dipped into their savings or investments. And almost two thirds (62%) say that even though they are able to pay their bills, they have little left over for “extras.”

“The data tells us that Americans – no matter who they are – are uncertain about the sustainability of their financial lives. We launched The Wells Fargo Money Studyto help them get back on track. We took a unique, authentic and fresh look at money from the viewpoint of Americans of all demographics to get insight into how we can make better progress together toward our financial goals – whatever they may be,” said Michael Liersch, head of Advice and Planning for Wells Fargo.

The data reveals Americans’ real attitudes about money, including how they talk about money, whether it brings them joy or stress, how it informs their life narrative – or “money story” – and how they want help improving their approach to money. On behalf of Wells Fargo, Versta Research conducted a national survey of 3,403 U.S. adults and 203 U.S. teens age 14 to 17

re Americans Over-Spending?

More than half of Americans (58%) report being able to live within their means and not worry about making ends meet, while fewer than half (40%) feel they are in good or great financial shape, and one in four (23%) say they are in poor shape. What’s more, almost half (44%) report having more debt than they feel comfortable with, and one in three (31%) report spending more than they can afford each month.

Despite concerns when managing spending, across all those surveyed, one-third (37%) say they have been putting more into savings and investments—while a full 69% of young affluent* Americans report doing so. Similarly, three out of five (62%) feel that now is a good time to take advantage of new financial opportunities. And nine out of 10 (91%) feel it is a good time to be saving, though just one in seven (14%) feel it is a good time to borrow

Thoughts and worries about money: Teenagers are concerned

A majority of Americans (57%) say their money story is different from that of their parents. Looking back, adults said they thought and worried about money a lot less when they were growing up compared to now. Today’s teenagers look more like today’s adults when it comes to thinking and worrying about money, with more than one in three saying they think about money a lot. In fact, 73% of teens say they sometimes over-focus on how much money they have or don’t have, and nearly all of teens (91%) want to learn new ways of thinking about and dealing with their money.

“It may be time to flip the frame when we think of communicating about money in families: Usually we think of kids needing to listen to parents when it comes to money. Perhaps it’s time we listen to our kids, who may have more insight than we think on how we should be open to learning about, and changing our money behaviors,” said Liersch.

Lying about money is common: Teens confess to doing it more than adults

Teens say they’ve lied more about money than adults when it comes to how much they spend on things, how much they save, how much their home is worth and how much money they grew up with. Specifically, half (50%) of teens confess they have lied about how much they spend on things (versus 32% of adults). Forty-two percent of teens also report that they have lied to others about their savings (versus 28% of adults), and 18% of teens have lied about how much their 

“Teens appear compelled to lie more than adults about various aspects of their financial lives. We have to ask ourselves why. It may be from observing their parents’ behavior, peer pressure or the influence of social media. They may be embarrassed or ashamed of their or their family’s financial situation,” Liersch said. “There is also the possibility that teens are simply being more straightforward about the fact that they are dishonest about money. It’s important for Americans to understand the money messages American teens are receiving and why that compels them to lie about money.”

How money plays a role in mindset

More than half of Americans (57%) admit needing a “mental reset” when it comes to their money, with many feeling embarrassed, judged and overly focused on money.

Additionally, more than half of Americans (55%) report having a love-hate relationship with money and that they:

  • Sometimes overfocus on how much money they have or don’t have (60%)
  • Always worry about money even when they have enough (56%)

Over a third (36%) feel embarrassed by their finances, with nearly as many reporting that:

  • They are not their best self when dealing with money (30%)
  • Their money controls them instead of them controlling it (28%)
  • They receive criticism from others about their approach to money (27%)

Almost half (43%) think about money from a scarcity mindset (what they don’t have) versus a prosperity mindset that focuses on what they do have (57%).

Feelings of judgement are a factor for most, with more than half (57%) saying they sometimes judge themselves based on their money or lack of money, and half (50%) sometimes feel judged by others. A large majority (84%) want to be more intentional and thoughtful about their spending than they are right now.

Highlighting the possibilities for a mental reset and becoming more intentional about money, two-thirds (68%) agree that their money story is more about who they are and less about their money. Four out of five (80%) would value having a bank help them feel more in control of their money.

“Resetting your money story can feel overwhelming because it can seem like you need to make large changes all at once,” Liersch said. “The fact is that it’s small, incremental changes – like being more intentional about how you spend just on one thing, or saving even seemingly small dollar amounts like $50 or $100 per month – that tend to make sustainable positive steps toward accomplishing your goals. By making regular progress, it can inspire you to be less reluctant to discuss money because you want to know and share more about what leads to financial success.”

Majority still reluctant to talk about money

A large majority of Americans (82%) consider money to be a private topic, with up to two-thirds saying that they’re reluctant to talk about money, especially when it comes to how much they’ve saved (65%) and how much they earn (62%).

Half are reluctant to talk about how much they spend on things generally (49%), yet they are relatively more open about how much they spend on cars (31% reluctant) and how much their home is worth (39% reluctant). Nearly two-thirds of those surveyed (62%) believe that people talk too much about money problems, and consistent with this, fewer than two in five (38%) believe that living authentically means being open about money with others.

Some of the groups most reluctant to talk about how much they grew up with are Gen Z (41%) and young affluent Americans (43%). Young affluent Americans are also more reluctant to talk about how much their home is worth (48%). And women are more reluctant than men in all areas except how much they earn. For most, talking about their personal finances is harder than talking about religion, politics or death and it is almost as difficult as talking about sex. Putting sex and finances head-to-head, almost half (47%) say that having an open and honest conversation about their money is more challenging than discussing their romantic life (53%).

“I believe that the root cause of people being reluctant to discuss money is that it reveals more about who they truly are and that can make them uncomfortable –so much so that they are willing to lie about aspects of their financial life,” added Liersch. “I’d suggest that these feelings are part of human nature and encourage everyone to embrace their respective money stories.”

Americans, overall, are optimistic about where their money stories are headed. Three out of five (60%) say they are happy with their money story so far, while two out of five (40%) are unhappy. However, many more (73%) are optimistic about where their money story is headed (vs. 27% who are pessimistic).

“Finding a trusted partner to talk about money tends to lead to a greater likelihood to stay accountable in your money goals. At Wells Fargo, we have been providing our customers with a digital experience called LifeSync®, allowing for a personalized approach to align customers’ aspirations with their financial goals,” said Liersch. “In the 10 months since we launched LifeSync® we can see that customers include more goals when they’re talking directly with a financial professional.”

Learn more about the Wells Fargo Money Study findings at https://sites.wf.com/wfmoneystudy/ .

*Young Affluent defined as: under 40 years old with investable assets of $500K to $10M.

About Wells Fargo

Wells Fargo & Company (NYSE: WFC) is a leading financial services company that has approximately $1.9 trillion in assets. We provide a diversified set of banking, investment and mortgage products and services, as well as consumer and commercial finance, through our four reportable operating segments: Consumer Banking and Lending, Commercial Banking, Corporate and Investment Banking, and Wealth & Investment Management. Wells Fargo ranked No. 47 on Fortune’s 2023 rankings of America’s largest corporations. In the communities we serve, the company focuses its social impact on building a sustainable, inclusive future for all by supporting housing affordability, small business growth, financial health, and a low-carbon economy.

About Wells Fargo Wealth & Investment Management

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