Half of Americans call 2020 a ‘personal financial disaster,’ plan to change priorities in 2021


  • New survey shows that ‘rebuilding savings’ tops the list of New Year’s resolutions for three in five Americans.
  • A stunning 62% of respondents expect to take on a second job in 2021 to help stay afloat
  • Three in 10 currently don’t have the means to cover a $400 financial setback

NEW YORK — While there is no question 2020 has been an unparalleled health challenge, many are not losing sight of how devastating the year was for their wallets as well. A new survey finds over half of Americans (55%) consider 2020 a personal financial disaster.

The OnePoll survey asked 2,000 Americans what their financial status and future goals are for 2021. It’s a poignant question as 59 percent say 2020 has been filled with financial setbacks for them. Seven in ten say their financial priorities have changed from the start of 2020 to now. For 63 percent, this year has permanently changed their financial priorities.

More than six in 10 Americans (65%) are depending on 2021 to recover financially from the setbacks they’ve experienced during the pandemic. For nearly four in 10 (37%), that includes making serious cutbacks.

Three in four respondents (74%) have had to shift their financial priorities this year because of emergency or medical expenses. Half say putting more money aside has gained new importance due to their experiences in 2020. Almost as many (48%) admit that saving for an emergency fund was a new priority this year as well.

Commissioned by World Finance, the survey finds, on average, Americans need a minimum of $10,726 in savings in order to feel financially comfortable.

A long time until financial recovery

Nearly two in three people (63%) believe it will take longer than a year to reach just one of their financial goals. On average, people think it will nearly be 2024 before all their goals are met. Among employed respondents (59% in total), seven in 10 say they need a raise at their job in order to make ends meet. Sixty-two percent plan on taking on a second job in 2021 to meet their financial goals next year.

For 60 percent of America, rebuilding their savings tops the list of financial resolutions to accomplish in 2021. That’s closely followed by becoming debt-free (56%), improving their credit score (53%), and starting that emergency fund (51%).

More than half of the poll (55%) say they need advice on how to budget properly. Seventy-four percent also hope to improve their financial literacy next year. Three in ten plan to set up automatic savings to make their money dreams come true. At the moment, only 15 percent say they have an excellent knowledge of finances. Just over 40 percent say their knowledge is good, but not the best. Close to two-thirds of all respondents (63%) regret not taking their finances more seriously sooner.

“Ringing in the new year provides the opportunity to reflect, learn and plan for financial resolutions as we look ahead to 2021. We encourage Americans to take advantage of available financial literacy resources to create manageable budgets that fit their immediate and long-term needs,” says World Finance President and CEO Chad Prashad in a statement.

2021 brings opportunity to ‘start getting back to the good in life’

Nearly 30 percent of Americans do not feel that they have the safety net or resources available to cover a financial setback greater than $400. Over half the poll (54%) have used credit cards to borrow money for a short-term expense. Despite this, a third of Americans fear high-interest rates and an inability to repay their debt when taking out a short-term loan.

“The new year represents a fresh start, new beginnings and the opportunity for Americans to prioritize their financial well-being and start getting back to the good in life. World knows taking out a loan can be an intimidating process. When faced with a financial emergency, it is important to have a reputable partner to turn to for a quick solution,” says Prashad. “An improved credit score is important to increase their options as well as increase their credit limits and reduce interest rates.”

Forty-five percent of respondents expect to take out a loan for one reason or another in 2021. Nearly half of respondents ranked the ability to get cash fast as the most important criteria when considering taking out a personal or short-term loan.