The Pulse

Wealth Across America

Understanding our personal financial priorities

A new survey from John Hancock goes state to state in search of meaningful answers. To see what people in your state had to say, visit here

What does wealth mean to you? It’s not a simple answer.

For some, it’s about taking care of people in their lives – family and community. For others, it’s about being their best selves – spending time doing what they love, staying healthy and pursuing their dreams.

The Wealth Across America survey launched this week conducted by YouGov on behalf of John Hancock and Courageous Studios (the Branded Content Studio for CNN) asked Americans nationwide this very question and to define their personal finance priorities.


Generational priorities drive financial priorities:

  • According to American consumers, when given five options to choose from about how they prioritize their finances, the most important thing they think about is supporting loved ones (29%) and 39 percent define wealth as putting family first —the top answer for 49/50 states. But generational nuances tell a different story.
  • Millennials are looking to start their lives, as those 18-34 say the most important financial consideration is supporting their dreams and planning for the future (34%).
  • While Boomers and older generations prioritize mental and physical well-being as they head toward or enjoy retirement (38%).

Retirement anxieties underscored by lack of savings:

  • Nearly half of consumers (49%) –and 55 percent of Gen X –say they feel anxious about retirement and are not sure they have enough money put away to meet their goals.
  • Perhaps that’s because only 24 percent of Americans say they are saving for retirement, while 31 percent are not saving toward any goal because they are focused each month on just making ends meet.
  • More than one-in-four Americans (26%) say they have debts and are struggling to pay them off –a reality that makes saving for retirement unattainable for many.

For too many, rainy day funds are all dried up:

  • More than a third of Americans (34%) are motivated to go to work everyday not because they are looking to support a certain lifestyle or want the means to give back, but simply to put food on the table.
  • When just trying to make ends meet, it’s no surprise that more than two-in-five (42%) have no emergency funds set aside and it would be a struggle if they were forced to miss a month of work.

Wealth is the peace of mind that comes with not worrying about how to pay the bills next month or whether I have enough money to retire...

What Are People Saying Bout Wealth?

Excerpts from the survey:

Massachusetts: Wealth is the peace of mind that comes with not worrying about how to pay the bills next month or whether I have enough money to retire.

Florida: Wealth is family that cares for you, harmony in your home and the positive impact you have on others

Illinois: Wealth is the [freedom to choose the direction of my life,] the opportunity to travel and continue learning

Ohio: Wealth is having a comfortable life with family and friends

California: Wealth is the ability to seek knowledge and expand your horizons


What did people in your state have to say? Take a look:


The John Hancock Wealth Across America survey has been conducted using an online interview administered to members of the YouGov Plc panel of individuals who have agreed to take part in surveys. Emails are sent to panelists selected at random from the base sample.

The e-mail invites them to take part in a survey and provides a generic survey link. Once a panel member clicks on the link they are sent to the survey that they are most required for, according to the sample definition and quotas. (The sample definition could be “US adult population” or a subset such as “US adult females”). Invitations to surveys don’t expire and respondents can be sent to any available survey. The responding sample is weighted to the profile of the sample definition to provide a representative reporting sample.

The profile is normally derived from census data or, if not available from the census, from industry accepted data. YouGov plc make every effort to provide representative information. All results are based on a sample and are therefore subject to statistical errors normally associated with sample-based information.