The recent recession caused Americans to face some hard economic realities. As the economy continues to recover, more Americans are taking their lives off hold as fewer are being forced to delay going to college, getting married or having kids because of financial concerns. A new survey found that the number of American adults that have postponed at least one important life decision in the last year for financial reasons has fallen to 35 percent. This is an improvement from the 51 percent in a similar 2015 survey when Americans were still recovering from the recession.
The percent of Americans putting off specific life events for financial reasons has been nearly cut in half for a few areas. For example, 6 percent put off marriage last year, a change from 12 percent in 2015. Additionally, only 7 percent put off having children, compared to 13 percent in 2015. This according to a recent telephone survey, conducted in April 2018 on behalf of the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) by The Harris Poll.
Unstable economic times can often make getting married and starting a family difficult because of the potential financial commitment involved. With the average wedding in the US costing more than $30,000and the estimated price to raise a child through age 17 eclipsing $230,000, it is clear that these big life steps come with a price tag.
“As the economy continues to pick up steam and we put the recession further in the rearview mirror, it is important to be cautious and not forget the difficult financial lessons we learned,” said Greg Anton, CPA, chairman of the AICPA’s National CPA Financial Literacy Commission. “When making a major life decision, don’t just focus on the immediate costs. Consider the long-term financial implications as well. Taking on too much credit card debt to buy things your savings can’t cover, or making big purchases when you aren’t financially stable are reckless moves in any economy.”
The percent of Americans delaying higher education due to financial concerns saw a big drop. Back in 2015, nearly a quarter of Americans (24 percent) reported delaying higher education. Now, only 13 percent are delaying, an 11 percent improvement. With overall college enrollments down and the average cost of college tuition continuing to creep up, these results suggest that Americans may be questioning the idea that going to college is the best financial decision for everyone. And with the average student graduating with $39,400 in loans, higher education has the potential to affect savings and other financial decisions well into early adulthood.
In a similar positive trend, fewer Americans say costs are preventing them from getting into the housing market. In 2018, only 14 percent delayed buying a home for financial reasons, compared to 22 percent in 2015. Also, less Americans are delaying getting a medical procedure (12 percent delayed in 2018, compared to 19 percent in 2015) and retiring (10 percent delayed in 2018, compared to 18 percent in 2015) for financial reasons.
For those Americans who were forced to postpone life decisions, the top concern cited was a lack of savings (60 percent). This is consistent with the 60 percent who pointed to a lack of savings in 2015. In the most recent survey, the second highest factor was concerns about the U.S. economy which saw the largest change, shaving 12 percentage points from 50 percent in 2015 to 38 percent in 2018. Medical bills came in as the third highest cited factor and the only one to get worse (34 percent in 2018, compared to 29 percent in 2015).