By Rob Starr, Big4.com Content Manager
A new telephone survey of 1,005 U.S. adults conducted in March by Harris Poll on behalf of the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA), finds almost two-in-three (64 percent) U.S. adults cited Social Security as the top economic issue for the next U.S. President to tackle. Although the percentages increased as they aged, the majority of U.S. adults in each age group agreed and reducing the federal deficit was the second most pressing item respondents mentioned. Sean Stein Smith, CPA, a member of the AICPA’s National CPA Financial Literacy Commission answered a few questions about the survey which was commissioned for Financial Capability Month.
In general, why did Social Security top the list of important economic issues for the next president to address?
Social Security tops the list of economic issues for the next president to address for several reasons. First, Social Security, along with Medicare, form a key component of the retirement planning process for many individuals. Without these programs the retirement plans of Americans could be at risk. Second, confidence in the leadership of Social Security and the societal safety net that it is a part of is essential in order to make the decisions and that will be needed to maintain and expand programs such as these as the working population continues to grow. Americans need to see that their leaders are committed to the program that is so important to the retirement process of many them. Simply put, Social Security is incredibly important for millions of Americans, and the next President must be aware of the importance of this program as well as the ramifications involved in any changes made to Social Security.
What were the breakdowns according to age groups?
Ages 18-34 53%
65 and over 74%
It makes sense that this would be more important to a growing number of people as they age but it is impressive that over half of Americans in even the youngest age category thought Social Security was among the most important issues for the next President to address.
What other economic issues did respondents feel the next president should address?
Social Security was followed by reducing the federal deficit (44 percent), decreasing unemployment (38 percent), reducing taxes (36 percent), and decreasing the international trade deficit (25 percent) as top economic issues the next president should address. While 22 percent cited keeping interest rates low, there was a small group (4 percent) who thought the next President should increase interest rates.
What in general did the AICPA survey find about people’s attitudes toward the presidential election changing their economic well-being?
The AICPA survey found that 44 percent of U.S. adults felt that their current economic well-being would be about the same as a result of the upcoming Presidential election. Twenty-one percent felt that their economic well-being would be better and 19 percent felt that
their economic well-being would be worse after the election. Fifteen percent were not sure how the election would impact their economic well-being.
What advice does the AICPA’s National CPA Financial Literacy Commission offer to help Americans save for retirement?
Some tips and steps to help people start saving for a more comfortable retirement include the following:
1) Remember that Social Security should be a part, and not the entirety, of your retirement planning. Take full advantage of any retirement planning tools offered by your employer; any
matching contributions they make directly help you.
2) Think of retirement planning as a marathon; this helps break down the somewhat daunting process of thinking of how to maintain your lifestyle after the paychecks stop. Building a plan, with different goals for different milestones, and very possibly discussing it with your close friends and family, is an excellent way to keep motivated.
3) Utilize as many of the freely available resources for retirement planning and saving as you can. The AICPA National Commission on Financial Literacy has two online sources of information, www.360finlit.org and Feed the Pig (developed in conjunction with the Ad Council), that have step by step guides, tools, and ideas to help you plan, save, and assemble a retirement plan customized for you.
Also, and as a general note, the importance of financial literacy and financial literacy education cannot be overstated. Groups such as the AICPA’s National CPA Financial Literacy Commission are a great example of how professional associations can interact with, and give back, to their communities on important items such as this. Starting early, reinforcing the fundamentals of savings, budgeting, and planning for future, and bringing this topic to the forefront of conversation are things we all can do to make financial literacy the high profile conversation item it deserves to be.