Coming off the heels of writing a post about setting financial goals for the new year, I came across this blog post by Tiller the same day.

First of all, what’s Tiller? Tiller is a budgeting tool that automates your spreadsheets for you. Budgeting apps like Mint.com or YNAB.com have their own platforms for tracking your spending and building a budget. Tiller uses Google Sheets and Excel. As of this writing, there is a $59 annual fee to use Tiller (after a 30 day free trial).

Full disclosure: I have never used Tiller and I have no financial relationship with them. This is not a post that is meant to review the service.

OK, so back to my original point. They polled 539 people across the US, ranging in age from 18-65. What were their #1 short-term financial goals for 2019?

  • 27% said “spend less money”
  • 25% said “pay down my debt”
  • 12% said “make and follow a budget”
  • 12% said “build my emergency savings fund”
  • 9% said “create an additional income stream”
  • 8% -said “better track my spending”
  • 6% said “invest more in stocks”

Takeaway #1

What do the results show? Basically, people want to have more in savings, get rid of debt, and make more money.

In other words, they want to build their net worth. This is a great goal to have, and building your net worth should be everyone’s long term goal. 

Goals by Age Groups

When broken down by age, those that are younger (25-34) showed more interest in budgeting, whereas those that are middle aged (45-54) showed more interest in investing.

It makes me wonder. Are the middle aged folks more interested in investing because they have more money to invest? Or are they trying to make up for not saving enough when they were younger, hoping that investments will produce high returns? 

Keeping that in mind, let’s take a look at these findings:

  • 45 – 54 are more interested in paying down debt
  • 45 – 54 and 55 – 64 are more interested in building emergency savings

Hmmm. So the middle aged folks want to invest, and they’re also wanting to pay down debt and build emergency savings. Let’s tackle these topics one at a time:

  1. Investing: You know who needs to invest? Everyone. In fact, investing works best the younger you are. The secret ingredient to growing your money is time, and you have a much longer time horizon at 25 than you do at 45. 
  2. Paying down debt: Who needs to be paying off debt? Preferably nobody. But if you have debt, you’d much rather have it as a 25 year old versus a 45 year old. Why? Because the older you get, the more debt becomes a chain around your neck. Those student loans you’re planning on carrying for decades and treat like a mortgage? It gets really old after the first few years. The reason that middle aged folks are more interested in paying down debt is because they’re simply tired of it. They feel like the whole reason they’re working is to just pay the bills, which will usually include some form of debt. Which, by the way, makes work less enjoyable.
  3. Building an emergency fund: Ideally, this should have been one of the FIRST financial goals an adult should have. There is a reason that Dave Ramsey includes this as his very first step in his popular 7 baby steps program. EMERGENCIES HAPPEN. They are to be EXPECTED. And you need to have that bucket of money you can use to easily pay for these emergencies. Otherwise, you find yourself in this vicious cycle, where you can never quite get ahead because your emergency fund (or lack of) was not sufficient to meet these emergency expenses that always pop up at the most inopportune time. 

I want you to be at age 45 and debt free. I want you to be 45 with an emergency fund in place that has been there for YEARS. If you’re young, then take note of this. If you’re 45 or older, then it’s never too late to start fixing your finances. 

Takeaway #2

Getting older does not necessarily mean that you are getting wiser. You could be as clueless about personal finance at age 45 as you were at age 25. The only difference is that you probably have a more complicated financial situation at age 45, with more financial obligations that must be met. This is why I’m so insistent on teaching my kids about good financial habits. The thought of my kids hitting middle age and dealing with these issues is, well, really unpleasant to think about.

Goals by Gender

The bottom line: Men want to invest. Women would rather pay down debt and save. These findings have been shown time and again in different surveys.

It’s funny, because when women invest, they have been shown to do better than men. In terms of general money management skills, women tend to be less risky and more holistic with their money.

So why do women still lag behind when it comes to net worth? The persistent gender wage gap and lack of confidence about investing, among other reasons. 

Takeaway #3

Gender differences are persisting. And at least a part of this can be traced back to behavior. How much of this behavior is biologically hardwired versus societal is hard to say. 

Can you imagine having a sound money management plan that includes less risky behavior, the elimination of a gender wage gap, and increased confidence in investing?  Everyone, regardless of gender, would benefit from this sort of plan. 

Conclusion

As someone who likes to delve deeper into the “why” behind the numbers, I’m also equally interested in the “how.” Clearly, there is more work to be done when it comes to personal finance for everyone. As we see in this survey and others like it, we cannot ignore the issues that are specific to age groups and gender. 

By taking control of our money, we can change the numbers. I personally want to see a similar survey 5, 10, 20 years from now showing vastly different data. I am optimistic that we will see the numbers trending in the right direction.

What are your thoughts about this survey? Have you seen how personal finance differs according to age and gender? Comment below!

Leave a Reply