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Updated: Mar 07, 2016

Survey: 32% of Americans Spend No Time Managing Their Finances

Scheduling weekly financial check-ins to review your budget and go over your bills is a smart move when you want to make the most of your money. So why don't we do it?
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Scheduling weekly financial check-ins to review your budget and go over your bills is a smart move when you want to make the most of your money. According to a recent MyBankTracker survey, however, 31.2% of Americans aren’t putting any time into getting their finances in order from week to week.

So who are the biggest slackers when it comes to money management? Keep reading to see what key insights our survey uncovered.

Who’s neglecting their finances the most?

MyBankTracker collected over 1,000 responses to the survey and respondents were asked to tell us about their age, gender, income, parental status and where they live. That data proved useful in making the following observations about who’s more likely to put their finances on the backburner:

  • Not surprisingly, younger millennials seem to be the least concerned about keeping tabs on their money. 53% of respondents aged 18 to 24 said that they didn’t spend any time managing their finances on a weekly basis. 
  • Men are more likely than women to take a hands-off approach to their financial responsibilities. 34% of men who participated in MyBankTracker’s survey said they didn’t waste any time at all on their finances, compared to 28% of women. 
  • The odds of falling behind on financial planning seem to be greatest among middle to high-income earners. 44.4% of respondents who reported earning an annual income between $75,000 and $99,999 admitted to spending zero time on balancing their budget or tracking debt. 
  • Those living in the South or rural areas most frequently said they didn’t make their finances a priority. 33.3% of southerners and 33.8% of folks living in rural areas chose “none” when asked how much time they spend on average managing their finances each week. 

Who’s staying on top of their dollars and cents?

On the flip side of the coin, MyBankTracker also analyzed who was the most diligent about maintaining good financial health. The survey showed that:

  • The majority of people who spend time on their finances average no more than a half an hour. 23.6% said they spent 30 minutes going over the books each week. 
  • Women who bring home a big paycheck are more likely to devote more time to their money. 42.9% of women who are earning between $100,000 and $149,999 said they committed at least 30 minutes a week to financial management. 
  • Older Americans spend the most time focused on their finances. 25.8% of seniors 65 and up said they reviewed their money situation for an hour on average each week, followed by 24% of 55 to 64-year-olds. 

What’s behind the laissez-faire attitude towards money management?

While these findings are telling, they don’t paint the whole picture. MyBankTracker decided to see if there were some broader trends to support the survey results. Here are some interesting tidbits we uncovered.

Parents play an important role in shaping financial attitudes

Parents tend to get blamed for everything these days, and when it comes to bad financial habits, the research suggests that Mom and Dad have a strong influence. In a 2015 study from Bank of America, 58% of millennials said that their parents had the greatest impact on their financial decisions. Among the millennials who said their parents set a “poor” or “fair” example with money, only 37% regularly kept a budget.

That may explain why so many younger adults included in the MyBankTracker survey said they overlooked their finances. Among older millennials, the number of 25 to 34-year-olds who said they didn’t actively manage their money was cut down to 27.5%. That could suggest one of two things—either their parents were more adept at teaching them the ins and outs of finance or they made some money mistakes in their early 20s that they’ve since learned from and are working to correct.

Interestingly, 66.7% of the respondents who said they spent no time on their finances reported being parents. Again, that could imply that their lack of attention to their money can be traced back to patterns that originated with their own parents. Among non-parents, 65.1% chose “none” as their response. The bottom line? Having kids doesn’t necessarily make you more financially responsible. If anything, it may mean you have less time to focus on money.

Women have good reason to be cautious about money

So what accounts for the gender gap when it comes to money management? Other studies hint that women are simply more responsible by nature in the financial area. An Experian survey, for example, found that women tend to have higher credit scores, carry less credit card debt and use less of their overall credit limits.

Considering that women earn 21% less than men on average, that may explain why they’re more careful when it comes to their financial lives. Retirement, however, continues to be a stumbling block and according to a recent Transamerica retirement survey, women are less likely to save in an employer’s retirement plan, save less of their income than men and are more likely to have an undefined idea of how much money they’ll actually need to live out their golden years.

Geography can make a difference

Where you live has been tied to how much earning power you have. As of 2014, the median household income in the U.S. was $53,657. Across traditional southern states, including the Carolinas, Alabama, Mississippi, and Georgia, the median household income was anywhere from $4,000 to $18,000 lower than the national median.

At the same time, those states have some of the highest average credit card balances and delinquency rates, according to TransUnion. Between a heavy debt burden and a smaller paycheck, residents living in these areas may feel that making a positive change in their finances isn’t doable, so they don’t bother.

How to make managing your finances less of a headache

Unless you’re just a total numbers nerd, spending hours on your finances each week probably isn’t all that appealing or realistic. Fortunately, it’s possible to keep your finances afloat with a relatively small investment of your time, but you need a clear plan for making it happen. Here are the action steps MyBankTracker recommends for taking control of your money without tying up too much of your day:

  • Use an app to take the stress out of budgeting. Creating a budget isn’t that difficult. You simply add up your expenses each month and compare that to your income. The goal is to spend less than you earn, so you have money to save. If you’ve never created a budget before, using an app like Mint can make the transition easier. With Mint, you link your checking, savings and credit card accounts, create your budget with personalized spending categories, and the app keeps track of what’s coming in and going out.
  • Put your bills on autopilot. Automating your monthly bill payments, such as utilities, student loans or credit cards, does two things for you. First, it helps you avoid getting hit with a late fee, which means you’re not throwing away money. Second, it means you’re not earning any negative marks on your credit, which can tank your credit score. A low credit score can mean big trouble down the line if you plan to apply for a car loan or buy a home.
  • Build an emergency fund automatically. Everyone needs an emergency fund but for some people, saving is easier said than done. Linking your checking account to your savings account and setting up recurring transfers every payday ensures that the money makes it to your emergency stash instead of getting spent. Stick with an online, high-yield savings account to maximize the interest you’re earning.
  • Create account alerts with your bank. Overdraft fees are not only annoying, but they can cost you big money. Banks can charge you more than one overdraft fee in a day so a $5 cup of coffee can quickly turn into a $150 if you’re not keeping enough cash in your account. Setting up alerts to let you know when your balance is getting low can put the brakes on those pesky overdraft fees.
  • Step up your retirement game automatically. Saving 15% or more of your income in a 401(k) is a good way to build a fat nest egg but for someone who’s just starting their career, that may not be realistic. If you can’t afford to save that much right off the bat, setting your account contributions to increase by a percent or half a percent each year can help you reach your target.

All of these tips are fairly easy ways to hack your finances and most of them only take a few minutes to do. Just remember that automating your money doesn’t mean you can set it and forget it. You still need to pencil in a regular review on a monthly basis at the very least to make sure you’re staying on track.

Survey Methodology

This nationwide, online survey was conducted by Google Consumer Surveys for MyBankTracker on February 28, 2016. A total of 1,006 people responded to the questions in our survey. All respondents were aged 18 or older.