Merrill Edge® Report Finds Americans Prioritize Money Over Love; Use
Emerging Tech to Solve Planning Shortfalls
NEW YORK--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Nov. 30, 2018--
Matters of the heart are quickly becoming worries of the wallet, as 56
percent of Americans say they want a partner who provides financial
security more than “head over heels” love (44 percent). This sentiment
is held by both men and women (54 percent, compared to 57 percent),
whereas Generation Z (born between 1996 and 2010) is the only generation
to choose love (54 percent) over money (47 percent).
These findings come from the latest Merrill
Edge Report, which reveals Americans’ increasingly complex
relationship with their money, significant others and financial futures.
Merrill Edge releases this national, biannual study of more than 1,000
mass affluent Americans1 to take an in-depth look at their
ever-evolving financial concerns and priorities.
“Americans are saving money at record rates, and yet we’re seeing people
of all ages look to their current and prospective partners to secure
their financial futures. Economic uncertainty and a lack of financial
planning seem to be creating this burgeoning trend of dependence on
others for financial security,” said Aron Levine, head of Consumer
Banking and Merrill Edge. “We believe that it’s crucial to have a
financial plan at every life stage in order to achieve financial goals
and stay on the right path to financial success.”
Merrill Edge helps investors plan for the future at every stage of life
with tools and resources designed to help clients build solid savings
habits, budget effectively, prepare for emergencies, and invest for
their life’s goals, whether saving to buy a house, paying off student
loans, preparing for retirement, or simply trying to make ends meet.
Clients can be self-directed; work with a Financial Solutions Advisor™;
or access Merrill Guided Investing, an online advisory program that
offers portfolio management strategies developed by the company’s Chief
Investment Office.2 Since Merrill Edge launched in 2010, it
has grown to $203.9 billion in assets and more than 2.5 million accounts.
Merrill Edge Report respondents also said they prefer a partner who is
career-focused (63 percent) over socially conscious (37 percent); frugal
(55 percent) more than philanthropic (45 percent); and a saver (83
percent) rather than a spender (17 percent).
When money doesn’t talk
While Americans are looking to their
partners for financial security, they are tight-lipped when it comes to
discussing their own finances. Respondents rank nearly all major
relationship milestones ahead of discussing their finances, including
meeting the family, being intimate, traveling together and discussing
They even postpone the “money talk” with their significant others, with
the majority admitting they rarely talk about their:
Debt (60 percent).
Salary (57 percent).
Investments (55 percent).
Spending habits (51 percent).
Saving to save
Perhaps their never-ending quest for
financial security is prompting Americans to save at record rates.
Respondents report they are willing to stash away an average of $18,000
annually on saving and investing, more so than spending on rent and
mortgage payments ($16,000), their children’s education ($12,000) or
Additionally, 24 percent of Americans say nothing is constraining their
ability to save for the future, while 73 percent think they can have
everything they want in life, as long as they save and budget
But it is clear that saving does not equate to planning. The majority
say they have no monetary goal in mind for many of life’s major
milestones. For example, 67 percent are unsure how much money they
should save before having a baby. Many also admit they have no “magic
number” for the following:
Getting married (64 percent).
Sending children to college (54 percent).
Putting a down payment on a house (51 percent).
Even for retirement, half have no goal in mind. And of those who do have
a “magic number,” 79 percent are aiming low, reporting they are saving
for less than $1 million. Americans even think that their planned
retirement age will change an average of 15 times throughout their lives.
This lack of planning extends well after they are gone. Ninety-three
percent agree that it is important to create a will, yet only 42 percent
currently have one.
New and emerging technologies may be the
solution to planning shortfalls. According to the report, nearly half of
all Americans admit that social media impacts their finances,
specifically their spending habits (48 percent), budget (43 percent),
savings (42 percent), and bank account (40 percent).
Respondents are also increasingly embracing artificial intelligence (AI)
in their financial lives, with 49 percent already comfortable with AI
providing financial guidance, managing day-to-day finances (49 percent),
and making investments (47 percent). They even say they would be
comfortable using AI to protect their home (67 percent), do their job
(41 percent) and drive their car (41 percent).
Many predict in the next five years, the investment guidance they
receive will be primarily via digital channels (74 percent); mobile
trades will be the norm (69 percent); and less than 20 percent of trades
will occur on the Stock Exchange floor (63 percent).
“Perhaps this rapid adoption and reliance on technology will inspire
Americans to take action and plan for their financial futures,” said
Levine. “At Merrill Edge, we’re taking a high-tech and high-touch
approach to marry the best of the digital and physical worlds, providing
our clients financial advice and planning on their terms.”
For more in-depth information about the financial behaviors and
priorities of mass affluent Americans, read the entire Fall
2018 Merrill Edge Report. A complementing infographic is available here.
1 Merrill Edge Survey Methodology
independent market research company) conducted a nationally
representative, panel-sample online survey on behalf of Merrill EdgeSept. 27-Oct. 13, 2018. The survey consisted of 1,034 mass affluent
respondents throughout the U.S. Respondents in the study were defined as
aged 18 to 40 (Gen Z/Millennials) with investable assets between $50,000
and $250,000 or those aged 18 to 40 who have investable assets between
$20,000 and $50,000 with an annual income of at least $50,000; or aged
41-plus with investable assets between $50,000 and $250,000. For this
purpose, investable assets consist of the value of all cash, savings,
mutual funds, CDs, IRAs, stocks, bonds and all other types of
investments such as a 401(k), 403(B), and Roth IRA, but excluding
primary home and other real estate investments. We conducted an
oversampling of 300 mass affluents in Atlanta. The margin of error is
+/- 3.1 percent for the national sample and about +/- 5.6 percent for
the oversample market, reported at a 95 percent confidence level.
2 The Chief Investment Office (CIO) develops the investment
strategies for Merrill Guided Investing (MGI), including providing its
recommendations of ETFs and related asset allocations. Managed Account
Advisors LLC, Merrill Lynch's affiliate, is the overlay portfolio
manager responsible for implementing the MGI strategies for client
accounts, including facilitating the purchase and sale of ETFs in client
accounts and updating account asset allocations when the CIO's
recommendations change, while also implementing any applicable
individual client or firm restriction(s).
Merrill Edge is a streamlined investment service that
provides access to the investment insights of Merrill Lynch and the
convenience of Bank of America banking. With Merrill Edge, clients can
view their Merrill Edge investment and Bank of America bank accounts on
one page online. They also have access to easy-to-use tools, actionable
insights, step-by-step guidance and competitive pricing for online
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