One in three Americans prepares a detailed family budget

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PRINCETON, NJ – Almost one in three Americans prepares a detailed written or computerized family budget each month that tracks their income and expenses – a large majority do not.

Those with at least a college education, conservatives, Republicans, independents, and those earning $ 75,000 a year or more are slightly more likely to prepare a detailed family budget than their counterparts.

These results come from Gallup’s annual Economic and Personal Finance Survey, conducted April 4-14, 2013. Gallup asked Americans about several types of financial management tools to assess how they keep track of their finances .

Slightly fewer Americans (30%) prepare a long-term financial plan that details their savings and investment goals.

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Those with at least a college education and those earning $ 75,000 a year or more are most likely to prepare a long-term financial plan that details their savings and investment goals.

Americans rely more on online programs than counselors to help them with their finances

Americans are slightly more likely to say they use a computer or online financial program to manage their money than they use a certified accountant or financial planner – 32% versus 24%.

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This is roughly reversed from a decade ago when Gallup last asked this question, when 30% used an accountant or financial planner and 24% used an online program.

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Those with at least a college education and those earning $ 75,000 a year or more are most likely to use a certified accountant or financial planner and use a computer or online program.

Implications

Americans who prepare a detailed family budget are in the minority in the United States. Americans feel the need to budget. Yet managing a family’s finances well – and avoiding financial hardship – usually involves creating a family budget.

Interestingly, online financial management has increased slightly over the past decade. With the growth of online banking and computer usage in general, it looks like more Americans would find this a convenient way to manage their finances. Yet online financial management is slightly more popular today than it was in 2003, and Americans now use such programs more than accountants or financial planners.

Survey methods

The results of this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted April 11-14, 2013 with a random sample of 1,012 adults, aged 18 and over, living in all 50 US states and the District of Columbia.

For results based on the total sample of national adults, it can be said with 95% confidence that the margin of sampling error is ± 3 percentage points.

Interviews are conducted with respondents on landlines and cell phones, with interviews conducted in Spanish for respondents who are predominantly Spanish speaking. Each sample of national adults includes a minimum quota of 50% mobile phone respondents and 50% landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas per region. Landline numbers are randomly selected from the listed phone numbers. Cellular phone numbers are selected using random dialing methods. Fixed telephone respondents are randomly selected from each household on the basis of the member who had the most recent birthday.

The samples are weighted to correct for the probability of unequal selection, non-response and double coverage of landline and cell phone users in the two frames. They are also weighted to match national demographics of gender, age, race, Hispanic ethnicity, education, region, population density, and phone status (phone mobile only / landline only / both, mainly mobile phone and unlisted landline number). The population weighting targets are based on figures from the March 2012 Current Population Survey for the US population aged 18 and over. Phone status targets are based on the July-December 2011 National Health Survey. Population density targets are based on the 2010 census. All reported sampling error margins include the effects of plan calculated for weighting.

In addition to the sampling error, the wording of the questions and the practical difficulties of carrying out surveys can introduce errors or bias in the results of opinion polls.

For more details on Gallup’s survey methodology, visit www.gallup.com.


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