Average adult commits 8 ‘financial fails’ a month, could have saved $315, survey finds

NEW YORK — If you ever feel like you’re barely making a dent in paying off your credit card debt, it might be that you’re being more careless than you realize in how you’re managing your money. A recent survey of 2,000 American adults found that the typical person commits an average of 91 “financial fails” per year.

These “financial fails” include not setting aside enough savings, frequenting restaurants often, and generally spending more than they should, according to the survey, which was commissioned by LendingTree subsidiary ValuePenguin.com.

All told, the survey participants reported eight “financial fails” per month on average. The most common areas of overspending were eating out instead of cooking at home, with 54% reporting this behavior; online shopping (36%), and buying clothes and shoes (28%). According to the data, the eight “financial fails” per month added up to $315.16 that could have otherwise been saved.

Should participants need to pay off their credit card debt today, only 49% say they’d be able to do so.

The survey revealed overconfidence on the part of the participants. While 76% of respondents said they feel well-informed about their financial decisions, most didn’t know what several common financial terms mean, such as Roth IRA, capital gains, or mutual fund. Unpreparedness was also an issue. While 59% of respondents have some sort of debt, just 42% check their credit score every month. Only three in ten respondents say they contribute to a retirement fund monthly.

Overall, nearly two-thirds of the respondents didn’t have investment portfolios. Half of those without portfolios said they don’t invest because they don’t understand how, and the other half said they choose not to invest for other reasons.

For many, a major problem is communication. More than a third (36%) of participants say they’ve kept their finances hidden from their partner. Even fewer, just 26%, talk about their financial situation with their significant other regularly. And only about three in ten (29%) work with a financial planner. It’s no surprise that the survey revealed 78% of Americans worry about their finances — for about 41 minutes a day on average — in general.

“If you’re worried about your financial situation, take a step back to take stock of where you currently stand,” says Joe Resendiz, an analyst at ValuePenguin.com, in a statement. “Once you’ve identified the major problems, whether that be debt or a cash flow issue, you can make a corrective plan. By setting short-term goals you’ll put yourself on a path to financial security.”

Thankfully, the survey did show that 82% of adults say they’re working to make better financial decisions, and 52% are trying to improve their financial knowledge.

“It’s important to have resources that you can rely on when making any financial decision. Whether that means talking to your partner, consulting with a financial adviser or conducting online research, you should educate yourself before taking any action,” says Resendiz.

Other findings from the survey:


  1. Not saving enough money                             37.70 percent
  2. Getting takeout instead of cooking                 31.85 percent
  3. Spending more than I should                         28.80 percent
  4. Buying new outfits                                          22.15 percent
  5. Buying lunch instead of cooking                     21.75 percent
  6. Shopping out of boredom                               20.30 percent
  7. Paying for rarely-used subscriptions              20.00 percent
  8. Paying bills late                                               19.20 percent
  9. Spending more than I earn                             16.25 percent
  10. Getting Ubers/taxis instead of walking           14.10 percent

The survey was conducted by market research firm OnePoll in January 2019.

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