Paying Off Debt Tops Financial Priorities List


February 6, 2015 – By Marlene Y. Satter

A man with too much credit card debtWhen it comes to their finances, putting aside funds for retirement is way down the list for Americans in 2015.

According to a poll from American Consumer Credit Counseling, the top financial priority this year for most of the country is to pay off debt.

Whether it’s student loans, credit cards or some other obligation that’s hanging over their heads, 71 percent of those surveyed said cutting their debt would be their main financial focus this year. And, by the way, 61 percent of this group are over 45.

A man with too much credit card debtWhile 16 percent said they were sorry they hadn’t contributed more to retirement savings, emergency funds or just savings accounts, only 3 percent listed saving for retirement as a priority in 2015. And all of those 3 percent, incidentally, are between 55 and 64 years old.

Another interesting factoid: among those survey respondents listing financial regrets, 22 percent cited relying too heavily on credit cards, while 19 percent said that failing to stick to a budget was their biggest regret.

But only 13 percent said they regretted frivolous spending. (Is that because the rest didn’t spend frivolously, or because they enjoyed it so much they don’t regret it? One can’t help but wonder.)

Other items that popped up in 20/20 hindsight were failure to save more (generally, not specifically for retirement; 16 percent) and not paying down debt (11 percent — of course, if they’d been able to do it last year, they wouldn’t have had to put it so high on the priority list this year).

Amazingly, 11 percent said they had no financial regrets. (Either their year was very successful or very boring, presumably.) And 8 percent had some other financial transgression or omission to make them remember 2014 with sadness.

They may not have stuck to a regular budget, but a surprising number managed to come in either under (42 percent) or on target for (28 percent) their holiday budget. Another 20 percent cast caution to the winds and spent, spent, spent.

Wonder what they’ll be saying this time next year.