The Biggest Money-Related Resolution for 2017? Pay Off Debt

new year's resolution statistics

Whether you’re a resolution-setter or not, the end of the year can be useful to reflect on the past 12 months and see how you managed your finances. Hopefully, you had a few money wins you can be proud of, even if you also made some mistakes and have a few financial regrets.

Student Loan Hero’s second annual New Year’s survey reveals New Year’s resolution statistics on the most common money regrets of 2016 and the most popular financial goals for 2017. Find out what how your 2016 stacks up, and get some ideas for how to do even better next year.

Top financial regret of 2016: not saving more

What was your biggest financial regret of 2016? Two-thirds of people had a financial regret, selecting one of the six listed. The other third selected “other,” showing that their regret wasn’t listed or that they didn’t have one for the past year.

Among those who chose a regret, the most common was not saving or investing as much as they’d wanted.

Biggest financial regrets of 2016

  • Didn’t save or invest as much as I wanted: 34 percent
  • Didn’t pay off as much debt as I wanted: 25 percent
  • Spent frivo­lously (­shopping, Netflix, meals): 20 percent
  • Made a bad investment: 9 percent
  • Didn’t pay my bills on time: 7 percent
  • Made a major purchase I couldn’t afford: 5 percent

Respondents chose not saving as their biggest regret of 2016 less frequently than they did in last year’s New Year’s resolution survey.


Hopefully, this indicates that consumers did a better job of saving over the past year — and not that their other money mistakes of the year were more regrettable!

1 in 4 wish they’d paid off more debt

The second-biggest financial concern of the past year was not paying off as much debt as borrowers had wanted to. According to our New Year’s resolution statistics, this was the regret of one in four respondents who selected a listed answer.

Interestingly, these two most common regrets are not necessarily mistakes (like making a bad investment or making an unaffordable purchase). Instead, this 59 percent wish they had done more with their money to get closer to reaching their financial goals.

Following a budget continues to be a challenge for many people. One in five people said their biggest financial regret in 2016 was spending frivolously. Another 5 percent said they bought something they couldn’t afford this year.

Additionally, 7 percent were late on a payment and cited this as their biggest money misstep in 2016.

Top financial resolution for 2017: pay down debt

What is your top financial resolution for 2017? Two-thirds of respondents said they are setting New Year financial resolutions to work toward in 2017.

The other third had no financial resolution for 2017. Older respondents are more likely not to have a money-related resolution. Over half (55 percent) of those who aren’t setting a financial resolution are over 65.

Among those setting a money goal for the new year, the most common resolution is to pay down debts.

Financial resolutions for 2017

  • Pay off debt: 30 percent
  • Build an emergency fund: 18 percent
  • Save for retirement: 15 percent
  • Improve my credit: 12 percent
  • Buy a house: 12 percent
  • Other financial resolution: 12 percent*

The next-most common goals both center on saving. In fact, more than a third of respondents selected one of these savings-related goals — making them a more popular answer than paying down debt.

Slightly more people are focused on building their short-term savings (an emergency fund) than long-term savings (retirement).


*This answer was not an option for the 2015 survey.

This year’s resolutions reflect 2016’s regrets

Many people’s New Year financial resolutions for 2017 have a similar theme to their biggest money regrets of 2016.

Over half of those whose top financial goal is to pay down debts in 2017 say not doing so in 2016 is their biggest money regret of the year.

Among those who regret not saving as much as they wanted to, 44 percent have a savings-related goal to build an emergency fund or contribute more to a retirement account.

For regretters who were negatively impacted by paying a bill late this year, it seems that their credit took a hit. The most popular New Year financial resolution in this group is improving credit.

Goal-setters who aim to buy a home in 2017 most often said they regret spending frivolously; perhaps their lack of self-control led to some missed opportunities to save for a home down payment.

Among respondents who resolved to build an emergency fund in the new year, the biggest regret is making a major purchase they couldn’t afford this year.

Whatever the reason for financial missteps in 2016 or financial goals set for 2017, nearly everyone wants to do more with their money in the new year.

Survey methodology

Survey was conducted via Google Consumer Surveys on behalf of Student Loan Hero on November 4, 2016, with a nationally representative sample of 1,013 adults living in the United States and a margin of error of 1.6 percent or lower.

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