All signs currently point to a resilient economy. Americans have been spending pretty freely, the job market remains strong, wages are rising faster than inflation and interest rates have been rising. Meanwhile, prices have cooled off a bit and inflation is steadily decreasing.

Despite these positive indicators, many Americans don’t expect their wallets to feel any better next year.

A new Bankrate survey finds that nearly two-thirds of Americans (63 percent) don’t expect their personal finances to improve in 2024. That includes 38 percent who think their financial situations will remain the same and 26 percent who think their finances will worsen. Nearly 2 in 5 Americans (37 percent) think their financial situations will improve in the new year, slightly up from last year (34 percent).

The biggest reason behind Americans’ financial pessimism continues to be inflation. Even if inflation is improving, economists say the prices of goods like food and gasoline remain higher than Americans are accustomed to, which is why they may not be feeling immediate relief. That relief is what many Americans are judging their financial outlook on.

A staggering 61 percent of those not expecting their financial situation to improve point to continued high inflation as a culprit — nearly twice that of any other reason. Of the 37 percent of households expecting improved finances in the new year, higher income, better spending habits and less debt are the most common explanations for their optimism. — Greg McBride, CFA | Bankrate chief financial analyst

Bankrate’s insights on American financial outlooks for 2024

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  • Americans’ outlook for their finances is bleak, but better than last year: 63% of Americans do not think their personal financial situations will improve in 2024, down from 66% last year.
  • More Americans are indifferent or optimistic about their finances heading into 2024: 37% think their financial situations will improve in 2024 and 26% feel their financial situations will worsen. 38% expect their finances to stay about the same next year, compared to 36% last year.
  • Most Americans have financial goals for 2024: Nearly 9 in 10 (86%) have at least one financial goal for 2024, among whom the most common financial goals for 2024 are paying down debt (22%), getting a higher-paying job or another source of income (16%), saving more for emergencies (15%) and budgeting spending better (13%).
  • Rising income boosts financial optimism: 42% of Americans who say their finances will improve next year point to rising income from either work, Social Security benefits or pensions.
  • Continued inflation is to blame for financial pessimism: 61% of Americans who say their finances won’t improve next year say continued high inflation is the culprit.

Nearly two-thirds of Americans don’t see their personal finances improving in 2024

As 2024 approaches, Americans have varying levels of concern regarding their money. Of the 26 percent expecting their finances to worsen in the new year, 16 percent see their finances getting somewhat worse, while 9 percent see their finances worsening significantly.

“High interest rates, widespread layoffs and staggering inflation at the grocery store are all real pressures folks currently feel,” says Anna N’Jie-Konte, CFP and president and director of financial planning for Re-Envision Wealth. “There is no relief in sight; therefore, it’s not hard to understand why Americans are pessimistic about their personal financial prospects.”

The 37 percent who expect a boost to their finances include 12 percent who think their finances will get significantly better and 25 percent who think they’ll get somewhat better. Around 2 in 5 (38 percent) think their financial situation will stay about the same next year, compared to 36 percent last year.

Note: Some grouped percentages may differ in the reporting, due to rounding.
Source: Bankrate survey, November 13-15, 2023

Financial outlooks for next year also vary significantly across generations: Every generation except for baby boomers (ages 59-77) feels more optimistic than pessimistic about their financial situations improving next year. Nearly 2 in 5 baby boomers (38 percent) believe their finances will worsen in 2024 and 20 percent think their finances will improve.

In comparison, over half (58 percent) of Gen Zers (ages 18-26) and nearly half (49 percent) of millennials (ages 27-42) feel optimistic, compared to 11 percent and 17 percent, respectively, who feel pessimistic. Thirty-three percent of Gen Xers (ages 43-58) think their finances will improve, while 28 percent think they’ll worsen.

Americans with a negative financial outlook blame inflation and stagnant wages

Inflation continues to be a lingering source of pain for many Americans, even if prices aren’t going up as quickly.

“They’re still notably higher than just two or three years ago, and that is what households feel,” McBride says. “The rate of inflation may be coming down, but prices generally are not.”

*Percentages are of U.S. adults who think their personal financial situation will not improve in 2024
Source: Bankrate survey, November 13-15, 2023

Of those expecting their finances to stay the same or get worse in 2024, the overwhelming culprit was continued high inflation (61 percent), with the next-highest reasons cited roughly half as frequently, including:

  • Stagnant or reduced income (32 percent)
  • Work done by elected representatives (31 percent)

Meanwhile, 22 percent blame changing interest rates and 19 percent say their debt is what holds their personal financial situations back. Another 16 percent each point to the amount they will make from their savings or investments and a change in life circumstances, along with 10 percent who say they don’t know why they don’t expect their finances to improve. Nine percent fault bad spending habits.

Americans with a positive financial outlook point to rising income and better spending habits

Even if inflation continues to fall, households aren’t expecting it to help them much: Just 19 percent of those expecting better days for their wallets in 2024 say lower levels of inflation will be what helps them out.

*Percentages are of U.S. adults who think their personal financial situation will get better in 2024
Source: Bankrate survey, November 13-15, 2023

Instead, the most prominent reasons for any financial optimism are rising income (42 percent), better spending habits (38 percent), having less debt (32 percent), making more money from savings and investments (27 percent) and a change in life circumstances (24 percent).

Other reasons cited to a lesser extent were changing interest rates (15 percent) and work done by elected representatives (11 percent). An additional 5 percent say they don’t know why they expect their finances to improve next year, while four percent cited something else.

Paying down debt is a top financial goal for 2024

Nearly 9 in 10 Americans (86 percent) have at least one financial goal going into the new year. Of those that do, the four most common goals cited were paying down debt (22 percent), getting a higher-paying job or another source of income (16 percent), saving more for emergencies (15 percent) and budgeting spending better (13 percent).

*Percentages are of U.S. adults who have financial goal(s) for 2024
Source: Bankrate survey, November 13-15, 2023

McBride says paying down debt has been the most commonly cited financial goal in the past three years, but it takes on “added urgency” in 2024 with “rates on credit cards and home equity lines of credit at record highs, mortgage rates at more than two-decade highs and auto loans rates at the highest in more than 15 years.”

Aja Evans, a licensed mental health counselor and financial therapist at Laurel Road, adds that balances on credit cards, car payments and student loans have more Americans on edge lately because of higher interest rates.

“I think generally, people tend to want to get out of debt, but I have noticed my clients really want to shift their lifestyle to get out of it quicker,” she says.

Other financial goals cited less frequently for 2024 include:

  • Saving more for retirement (10 percent)
  • Investing more money (9 percent)
  • Saving for a non-essential purchase such as a vacation, home renovation or big ticket item (8 percent)
  • Buying a new home (4 percent)
  • Other (3 percent)

There were also generational differences in top financial goals in 2024. Paying down debt was the most common goal cited by baby boomers (30 percent) and Gen Xers (28 percent), while getting a higher-paying job was the most common goal among Gen Zers (28 percent) and millennials (21 percent).

3 ways to financially plan for the new year

The majority of Americans have financial goals for 2024. If it’s important for you to get ahead financially in 2024, follow these three tips when planning for the new year.

1. Revisit your budget

Reviewing past spending and using that as a guide to budget for 2024 will be crucial. Look at how much money you are allocating to your fixed expenses and what that leaves for non-essential purchases.

Kaitlin Walsh-Epstein, chief marketing officer at Laurel Road, recommends following the 50-30-20 rule, with 50 percent of your income going to the things you need, 30 percent being your discretionary spending money and the other 20 percent going toward your savings.

“This structure will help set you up for success and help you achieve financial stability in the year ahead,” she says.

If you need additional guidance on your budget, consider working with a financial advisor.

2. Rebalance with your investment portfolio

The new year is a great time to check on your investments and make sure they still align with your long-term goals. Setting time aside to check on your investments is about more than just reviewing current asset prices.

You should also be sure your portfolio is set up the right way. That includes looking over your investments in your retirement account to ensure they continue to match your long-term goals, ensuring your retirement contributions are accurate and checking that your asset allocation has the right mix of stock, bonds and other investments.

It may lead to some changes or no changes. Either way, the goal is to make sure your portfolio stays balanced and continues to align with your long-term financial plan.

3. Make a plan and set new financial goals

Everyone’s situation is different, especially when it comes to financial goals and habits around saving and budgeting. To stay on track and make progress in the new year, take the time to get a comprehensive understanding of where your current finances stand, set new financial goals and put a financial plan together.

“You can theoretically set a goal to save 20 percent of your paychecks, but if you’ve been spending 100 percent of your take-home pay and have no awareness of your spending, then it’s unlikely you will be able to meet that goal,” N’Jie-Konte says.

N’Jie-Konte recommends setting financial goals with your 20 percent bucket in mind — whether that be saving for a home, paying off debt, beefing up emergency savings, investing or something else altogether. Don’t forget to celebrate the small wins along the way as you work towards your larger financial milestones.


What are financial goals?

A financial goal is a personal, big-picture intention that dictates how you’ll spend and save your money. Financial goals can be driven by needs or wants, and they can be short or long-term. They can also be tied to how you think about money. Examples of financial goals are building an emergency fund, paying off high-interest debt, saving for a home down payment or being more intentional with your spending.

How much should I have in savings?

Financial experts recommend aiming for three to six months’ worth of expenses to start, but even a few dollars a week is better than nothing. Experts also recommend stashing your savings away in a high-yield savings account.

Should I pay down debt or save?

It depends on your financial situation. You may want to make saving a priority if you have no emergency savings, and have no or little debt with low interest rates. You may want to make debt repayment a priority if you have high-interest debt, such as credit card debt. But the two shouldn’t be mutually exclusive. It’s entirely possible to pay down significant debt while making small contributions to your savings.

  • commissioned YouGov Plc to conduct the survey. All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 2,391 U.S. adults. Fieldwork was undertaken on Nov. 13-15, 2023. The survey was carried out online and meets rigorous quality standards. It employed a non-probability-based sample using both quotas upfront during collection and then a weighting scheme on the back end designed and proven to provide nationally representative results.