What do you want to accomplished most in 2016? If you're like most Americans, your top objective is to live a fuller, happier life. You also want to be healthier and thinner.
Those are the findings of a New Year's Resolution survey just released by the personal finance site GOBankingRates. The site conducted a survey of more than 5,000 Americans, representative of the general population. It offered a choice of six possible New Year's resolutions encompassing health, financial, and personal goals. Here's how they stacked up:
1. Enjoy life to the fullest.
Of the two-thirds of respondents who reported they would set one of the six goals for the coming year, "Enjoy life to the fullest" was the most popular, with about 46 percent of respondents choosing this goal. It was the most popular resolution in 30 of the 50 states.
In today's driven culture, it's a surprising result. It suggests a growing awareness that mindfulness, and living in the moment, are keys to being happy, whatever your income or professional success. A more mindful nation, with people seeking to enjoy their lives sounds like a great idea to me.
2. Live a healthier lifestyle.
This goal came in second, with about 41 percent of respondents picking it as their resolution, or one of their resolutions (they were allowed to choose more than one). Interestingly, there were geographical variations, with people in Midwestern states such as Illinois, Kansas, and Oklahoma more likely to select this as their resolution, while people in many Southern states--along with New York and California--resolving to enjoy life to the fullest instead.
3. Lose weight.
This classic New Year's resolution came in a close third behind "healthier lifestyle," with about 40 percent of respondents choosing this option. Again, there was geographical variation, with respondents in Montana, Arizona, Kentucky, and most of the New England states opting for this resolution.
4. Spend more time with family and friends.
A third of respondents picked this resolution, which seems to fit well with "Enjoy life to the fullest." Interestingly, in Arkansas and Wyoming, this resolution was tied for first place. Maybe remote rural settings make you want to spend more time around people.
5. Save more, spend less.
About 30 percent of respondents set this financial goal for themselves. It was tied for top place in Arkansas and Wyoming, and grabbed the top spot in Alabama, perhaps because a weak economy there makes frugality a necessity of life. Then again, the folks in Alabama may be on to something. "Given that the savings rate in America is so low and the consumer debt level is so high, more people should be resolving to save more and pay down debt," notes Cameron Huddleston, GOBankingRates' Life + Money columnist.
While it's a good general goal, she adds, in order to make that resolution a reality, you need to get more specific. So if you do want to save more and spend less in 2016, write down some actions you'll take to decrease spending and increase savings in the coming year.
6. Pay down debt.
This resolution finished last, with about 28 percent of respondents saying it was one of their goals for 2016. It was a more popular goal for people in their 40s and 50s, with about 17 percent of 45-to-54-year-olds considering debt reduction a top priority, compared with only about 9 percent of 18-to-24-year-olds, and about 10 percent of respondents over 65. Perhaps it's not surprising that the "squeeze" generation, struggling with the twin financial burdens of college-aged children and elderly parents, is most likely to be worried about debt, especially with retirement looming in the not-too-distant future.
Ironically, although financial resolutions were the least popular of the bunch, making them can make a real difference. While most New Year's resolutions are forgotten quickly--often within a month or two--a recent survey by Fidelity shows that people who made money-related resolutions at the start of 2015 are in better financial shape today than those who didn't.
So go ahead and set financial goals. Just don't forget to enjoy life while you're working to achieve them.