Research > What is Financial Wellness? It’s Not Today’s Consumer Money Experience
Comfort. Security. Balance. Stability. Peace of mind. MX’s latest survey of 1,000 consumers dives into what financial wellness means today.
Comfort. Security. Balance. Stability. Peace of mind. When asked what financial wellness means to them, consumers provided a range of answers but one thing was clear — financial wellness is more than just being able to pay bills. It’s about being able to live without worrying about money.
From the COVID-19 pandemic to rising interest rates to the recent collapse of several financial institutions, consumers have been faced with a continuous whirlwind of challenges over the past few years that threaten their financial security. This means achieving true financial wellness may feel tough for many consumers.
However, MX’s latest survey of 1,000 consumers paints a somewhat optimistic picture. Nearly half (44%) agree they feel confident their financial situation is better than 12 months ago. This is even higher among younger generations (Gen Z: 56%, Millennials: 51%), and those who identify as Asian, Black, Hispanic, or other (50% compared to 39% of those who identify as White).
The survey results, which are evenly split across generations, gender, and white vs. non-white ethnicities, show an interesting mix between the confidence to cover expenses and stress related to money:
Covering Costs: When asked what statement best describes their current financial situation:
Money Worries: Nearly half of respondents say money is a source of stress for them (48%) and thinking about money makes them anxious (47%). Additionally, 76% of respondents agree they are worried about rising costs due to inflation. And, in the face of a potential recession, consumers are taking steps to prepare:
While some consumers are taking steps to prepare for a potential recession, consumers are also embracing new financial goals for 2023 that go beyond just paying the bills. When asked about their top financial goals for the year, 42% of respondents are saving for a large purchase or retirement and 21% are paying off debt.
And, consumers have faith in their primary financial institutions and finance-related mobile apps to help them reach these goals. When asked if they believe their primary financial institution supports their top financial goal, the majority (59%) said yes. And, the same is true for finance-related mobile apps (45%).
We also asked more broadly if consumers anticipate buying a new vehicle or home in the next 12 months. This shows an even higher number of respondents who are planning large purchases this year. Thirty percent of respondents anticipate buying a new vehicle in the next 12 months while 16% anticipate a new home. Among different generations, Gen Z is most likely to be shopping for large purchases this year — 35% anticipate purchasing a new car and 24% anticipate purchasing a new home.
Industry innovations and societal changes have a profound impact on each new generation and how they think about money. For instance, Post War Americans used to save 20+% of their paycheck, and debt was seen as something to overcome. Over the decades, we’ve seen that inverted. Americans now have a savings rate of just 2.3% — and a much more liberal use of credit for all aspects of life. But, the pendulum may be shifting once again.
Credit Card Usage: Thirty-nine percent of consumers say they pay off the full credit card balance every month when asked what best describes how they use a credit card. Only one-third said they carry a balance on their credit card each month, while 11% say they only have it for emergencies and 17% don’t have a credit card. Gen Z is least likely to have a credit card — 21% say they don’t have one, compared to 11% of Baby Boomers.
Applying for Loans: Across generations, we asked what statement most closely aligns with their current perspective on applying for loans. The majority of Gen Z and Millennial respondents were more aligned to paying in full rather than carrying a loan. On the other side, the largest portion of Gen X and Baby Boomers align with the statement that loans are necessary for larger purchases such as a home or vehicle.
These responses show that younger generations may be learning from their predecessors and adopting new financial habits to decrease debt. With this change in behavior, there is an opportunity for financial institutions and fintechs to help consumers better understand their finances and take steps to become financially stronger. For instance, one clear opportunity across all ages is providing more tools and resources to track and manage finances.
When asked how they currently track and manage their finances, most consumers (45%) say they only check their finances through their financial accounts. This is even higher among older generations — 56% of Gen X and 48% of Baby Boomers.
However, the average consumer has multiple accounts spread across several financial institutions and apps. So, if they are only checking their finances through those accounts, they aren’t getting a full picture. What’s more, nearly 1 in 10 say they don’t track their finances while 23% of Baby Boomers are still using spreadsheets or another manual process to track and manage finances. And, only 19% of respondents say they use a budgeting tool or app to track their finances.
Let’s take a closer look at how consumers use mobile to manage finances.
Forty-five percent of consumers are performing finance-related tasks on a mobile app at least once per day. At the same time, 48% of consumers have 3 or more finance-related mobile apps currently downloaded to their mobile phone. Check out how this looks across generations:
The Mobile Millennial: Millennials are most active on mobile devices when it comes to managing finances:
The Reluctant Baby Boomer: Nearly 1 in 4 Baby Boomers (23%) say they never perform finance-related tasks using a mobile app, compared to 9% of overall respondents. And, one-third say they have no finance-related mobile apps on their phones.
The Generation in Between: Forty-three percent of Gen X are performing finance-related tasks using a mobile app at least once a day, with nearly half (49%) that have 3 or more finance-related mobile apps.
The Digital Generation: Even though Gen Z is the most digitally-native generation, only 48% of Gen Z respondents perform finance-related tasks on a mobile app at least once a day, compared to 58% of their Millennial counterparts. Most Gen Z respondents (47%) have 1-2 finance-related mobile apps on their phones, while 39% have 3-5 or 6 or more (10%).
Finance apps used most often? The finance-related mobile apps that respondents find themselves using most often include: Banking (37%) and Payments, such as Venmo, Paypal, etc. (32%). Among Gen Z and Millennials, payment apps top the list. For Gen X and Baby Boomers, banking apps are the most used.
The least used finance-related mobile app was Crypto — 28% of respondents said this was the type of finance-related mobile app used least often.
Interestingly, Credit Card apps were the third most used finance-related mobile apps (with a huge drop between second and third place), as well as the third least used finance-related mobile apps.
Among consumers who do leverage mobile apps to perform finance-related tasks, the survey shows a few key behaviors that financial institutions and fintechs can leverage to create an easier, more seamless mobile experience:
1. Make it Easy: Thirty-nine percent of consumers agree that they use the same username and password on multiple apps so that it’s easier to remember. And, more than half (51%) of consumers say they use biometric login options if it is an option. Both of these findings show consumers don’t want to have to remember multiple usernames or passwords to access their accounts.
2. Make it Connected: Twenty-nine percent of consumers have connected multiple financial accounts into one app to simplify how they manage their finances. This jumps to 37% among Gen Z and 46% of Millennials.
Among genders, women are less connected than men — only 24% agree they have connected multiple accounts into one app, compared to 33% of men. Among minorities, 32% of those who identify as non-white (Black, Asian, Hispanic, or Other) have connected multiple accounts into one app vs. 25% of White respondents.
3. Make it Secure: Sixty percent of consumers agree they prefer multi-factor authentication when accessing finances through a mobile app. Interestingly, this percentage shrinks with older generations:
While multi-factor authentication may be preferred, our findings related to using the same username and password in multiple apps shows that convenience may trump security in reality. Financial institutions and fintechs should focus on solutions that balance an easy login experience with a secure one.
4. Keep it Personal: Forty-five percent of respondents answered yes when asked if they feel their experience with finance-related mobile apps was personalized for them. Our previous research showed consumers want more personalized and proactive engagement from their financial providers. We can do better to create and maintain that personalized experience. Baby Boomers were the only generation where the majority didn’t answer yes — 44% answered not sure while 34% said no. White respondents are also less likely to feel their experience with finance-related mobile apps is personalized to them — 39% compared to 52% of those who identify as Asian, Black, Hispanic, or Other.
In A Time for Trust: The Consumer Money Experience, MX wrote that technology advancements over the last 2 decades have made the money experience for the average person harder. As this research shows, the average consumer has multiple accounts across numerous financial institutions and fintechs. This requires remembering several usernames and passwords (or using the same login details across multiple accounts) and tracking finances across various accounts and mobile apps. This problem will only get worse, unless we do something about it.
Consumers need a trusted partner to help them on their financial journey. We can do better. As we said at the beginning of this report, financial wellness is so much more than simply paying the bills. It’s about being able to see the complete picture of your finances. It’s about being able to spend and save for the future. It’s about eliminating money-related stress with seamless money experiences.
This survey of 1,015 American adults was conducted by MX in February 2023 using the online survey platform platform. Results included an even split in responses across each generation: Baby Boomers (25%), Gen X (25%), Millennials (25%), and Gen Z (25%). The respondents were also evenly split between male and female (50% each), as well as White and non-White (Asian, Black, Hispanic, or Other).