How confident Americans feel about their financial decisions, according to new poll

U.S. adults share their views in latest release of poll series numbers addressing financial education, financial systems and wellbeing.

By Jon Minnick      
Serious African American couple discussing paper documents, sitting together on couch at home, man and woman checking bills, bank account balance, terms of contract, mortgage, loan agreement

A new opinion poll from the National Endowment for Financial Education (NEFE), conducted by AmeriSpeak, has released results of U.S. adults on their confidence level when making financial decisions over the past year. The poll shows that 83% of U.S. adults surveyed made at least one personal finance-related decision* over the past year.

Follow-up questions inquired which of those financial decisions individuals felt most confident making, and which decisions they felt least confident making.

  • Respondents felt most confident making decisions about saving with a specific goal in mind (35%), paying off a significant debt (21%), opening or closing a credit card or line of credit (20%) and managing taxes independently (17%).
  • Respondents felt least confident in making decisions about withdrawing from savings, investment or retirement accounts to cover expenses or for another unexpected reason (14%) and deciding on insurance plans (14%).

“Feeling confident in making optimal financial decisions can be difficult to attain and it can take time. Personal experience and education can help improve confidence, however, there are also variables out of a person’s control that can dramatically deter a person’s confidence,” says Billy Hensley, Ph.D., president and CEO of NEFE in a press release. “Undoubtedly, gaining as much information and knowledge as possible can directly correlate to improving an individual’s confidence level.”

Some highlights of the poll data include:

  • Respondents aged 18-29 years old (49%) are significantly more likely than those aged 45-59 years old (33%) and those 60+ years old (37%) to indicate they made a personal finance decision on saving money with a specific goal.
  • White non-Hispanic adults are significantly more likely than Black non-Hispanic adults to have made a decision on insurance plans (30% vs. 18%).
  • Respondents with an annual income of $30K-$60K (30%) are significantly more likely to have paid off a significant debt than those with an annual income of less than $30K (20%) or those with more than $100K (21%).
  • Individuals with some college education or an associate degree (20%) feel least confident in withdrawing from saving, investment or retirement accounts to cover expenses or for another unexpected reason, compared to those with a bachelor’s degree or higher (11%).

“Our public opinion polling continues to point the financial education field in a direction that can support effective education and policy decisions. We began 2022 with a baseline of how people are feeling about their finances heading into the year. Throughout the spring and summer, we explored systemic challenges and areas that must be improved, and now we are exploring confidence, which can support thoughtful financial decision making,” adds Hensley in the press release.

Look at the methodology and other key findings here.

The NEFE champions effective financial education. They are an independent, centralizing voice providing leadership, research and collaboration to advance financial wellbeing.

* Respondents selected all that applied to them from this list: “Taking out a traditional loan, “Taking out a non-traditional loan”, “Making a significant purchase”, “Signing a lease”, “Investing in education or training for a family member, or friend”, “Opening or closing a credit card or line of credit”, “Selecting a retirement plan or specific investments for retirement or non-retirement accounts”, “Saving money with a specific goal in mind”, “Withdrawing from saving, investment, or retirement accounts to cover expenses or for another unexpected reason”, “Deciding on insurance plans”, “Paying off a significant debt”, “Taking on fees or overdraft charges for an account”, “Filing for bankruptcy”, “Managing taxes independently”, “Hiring an expert to manage financial decisions for.”