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Breaking down financial wellness priorities

January is financial wellness month, which is supposed to remind people about the importance of prioritization regarding this particular topic. With many Americans presently struggling with acquiring or retaining basic financial literacy or general knowledge, it raises the question of how many are even aware of their own financial wellness status, or what they think should be their priorities. A 2018 retirement education preferences survey conducted by CUNA Mutual1 delved deeper into this topic by breaking down the financial wellness priorities by age group.

The results of this study, which fielded responses from employees of over 300 plan sponsors, revealed some distinctions and correlations among respondents based on whether they are in the early, mid, or pre-retirement stages of their careers. Regardless of what stage your career is in, you can use the data in this piece as a comparative reference to your current financial wellness priorities, or as an indicator of what they ought to be if this is something you’re currently trying to determine.


Early career

For younger participants in the early stages of their careers (18-34 years of age), their top financial wellness priority was learning about budgeting and managing debt (35 percent), while understanding tools and resources available came in at second (23 percent). Smart retirement savings practices came in at third (19 percent), followed by basic investment principles (15 percent). Eight percent of respondents in this age group cited advanced investment principles (4 percent), retirement transition preparation (3 percent) and miscellaneous priorities (1 percent) as financial wellness prioritizations.


Mid-career respondents (ages 34-49) echoed similar sentiments to the younger age group regarding their stance on financial wellness priorities. These more tenured participants ranked both budgeting and debt management, along with understanding tools and resources available as equal top priorities (26 percent each), followed by smart retirement savings practices (21 percent). The final 26 percent prioritized basic investment principles (13 percent), advanced investment principles (seven percent) and retirement transition preparation (five percent), with one percent citing other financial wellness priorities as their primary focus.


The survey’s pre-retiree respondents (ages 50 and older) contained the most distinctions, with the top priority among this age group being retirement transition preparation (31 percent), followed by understanding the tools and resources available (26 percent). The final 42 percent allocated their financial wellness priorities to smart retirement savings practices (16 percent), budgeting and managing debt (11 percent), basic investment principles (9 percent) and advanced investment principles (6 percent). Other unnamed or unspecified financial wellness priorities were reported by one percent of respondents in this age group.


Based on the data compiled, the distinctions among financial wellness priorities become apparent when categorized by age groups. Younger workers just beginning or in their early career stages are primarily working towards establishing building blocks for long-term financial wellness like debt management and budgeting. Older workers nearing the end of their careers are more geared toward retirement preparation and gaining a firmer understanding of utilizing their planning tools and resources. Mid-career workers are focusing mainly on budgetary and debt management, while just beginning to delve in retirement preparation, along with improving their knowledge on utilizing the tools and resources at hand for this transition.

If you are in the process of identifying or evaluating your financial wellness priorities, the data depicted in this article can help you determine whether these goals of yours have you headed in the right direction or down an entirely separate path you might not have even realized. You can benefit from speaking with a financial advisor to identify what your financial wellness priorities should be at the current stage of your career or determine whether your current ones are moving you down the right path.

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