People value losing fat over pinching pennies in
What's more important to you -- becoming physically fit or fixing
In a nationwide poll commissioned by Bankrate.com,
getting in shape tipped the balance by a slim margin.
Pollsters asked: "In 2005, are you more focused
on improving your physical fitness or your fiscal fitness? By fiscal
fitness we mean improving your financial situation; for example,
by paying off debts and increasing your savings."
Some 36 percent of respondents said they would focus
more on physical fitness, and 31 percent said fiscal fitness.
That's almost a reversal of a similar survey taken
two years ago, in which 29 percent of respondents said they would
focus more on physical fitness during 2003 and 37 percent said they
would concentrate more on fiscal fitness.
In this survey and the one conducted two years ago,
about one-quarter said they would focus equally on both fiscal and
physical fitness. Eight percent said they won't focus on either
in 2005. Maybe they're thin and rich, or they enjoy being fat and
in debt. One percent of respondents just don't know which type of
fitness deserves a higher priority.
The survey comes at a time when Americans are fatter
and deeper in debt than ever before. Take weight -- please. According
to a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,
the average American is an inch taller and 25 pounds heavier than
in 1960. The average American gained about 10 pounds in the 1990s,
and even the airlines have noticed: The CDC says airlines spent
an extra $275 million in fuel in 2000 to carry the weight of ever-heavier
Meanwhile, if you're typical, you're saving less than
1 percent of your income. In October, the personal savings rate
was 0.2 percent, according to the Commerce Department. Consumers
owed almost $2.1 trillion in consumer debt in October, according
to the Federal Reserve. That's the most ever. Just in October, Americans
charged up another $7.7 billion in net consumer debt. That's $26
for every man, woman and child in the United States in one month.
It might not sound like a lot, but every dollar -- like every ounce
-- adds up.
Families aren't the only ones going on a borrow-and-spend
spree. The federal budget deficit is half a trillion dollars, and
the Japanese and Chinese are buying bonds to finance our deficits
so we can keep waddling into stores and plunking down credit cards
to buy their stuff.
As Americans' waistlines expand and their credit card
balances swell, it's tempting to say that 24 percent are on the
right track. They're the ones who say they will focus equally on
physical and fiscal fitness in 2005.
A gender gap was evident in the results, with women
expressing more concern about weight than money, while men's concerns
reflected the opposite. Some 38.8 percent of women said they would
focus more on physical fitness in 2005, compared to 28.7 percent
for fiscal fitness. Men stressed money more than weight by 34.1
percent to 32.5 percent.
The group that was most focused on getting their financial
houses in order was composed of men and women earning somewhere
in the $30,000s. More than 54 percent of these respondents said
they would focus on fiscal fitness, and 27 percent said physical
How much flab do people want to shed? One-third of
respondents said they don't plan to lose weight in 2005. The other
two-thirds want to lose an average of 22.8 pounds. Men want to lose
an average of 21.3 and women want to lose 23.9 pounds.
A shade under one-third of respondents -- 32.2 percent
-- don't feel the need to pay off debt in 2005. The people who want
to eliminate debt want to pay down an average of $11,288. The men
were twice as debt-focused as the women: Men wanted to pay down
an average $14,780 and women, $7,848.
The survey was commissioned by Bankrate.com and conducted
by Roper, which interviewed a nationally representative random sample
of 1,004 adults by phone in early December. It has a margin of error
of plus or minus 3 percentage points.