The modern wealth index
Charles Schwab has released its 2018 Modern Wealth Index, a survey of the saving and investing habits of 1000 Americans. Here's how the company describes its methodology:
The Modern Wealth Index…is based on Schwab’s Investing Principles and composed of over 50 financial behaviors and attitudes. Each behavior or attitude is assigned a varying amount of points depending on its importance, out of a total of 100 possible points…Quotas were set so that the sample is as demographically representative as possible.
This survey divides respondents into two categories: those with a written financial plan and those without a written financial plan. About 25% of people are “Planners”; the rest are “Non-Planners”.
Unsurprisingly, the survey found that Planners are more likely to be in control of their finances. For instance, 75% of Planners pay their bill and still manage to save each month. Only 33% of Non-Planners are able to do this. Almost two-thirds of Planners have an emergency fund; less than one-quarter of Non-Planners have set money aside for a rainy day.
And the higher a person's score in Schwab's Modern Wealth Index, the more likely they are to have a written plan!
If having a written financial plan is so strongly correlated with desirable monetary outcomes, then why don't more people do it? For most folks, it's because they don't think they have enough money to warrant one.
Personally, I've never had a written financial plan, although I do see their value. If I were to start again as an adult today, I'd probably create one.
I thought that the most interesting part of the Schwab survey was how participants viewed wealth. One question asked participants about their personal definition of wealth. What is wealth? Two of the top three answers weren't about money at all:
Related to yesterday's article about the relationship between time, money, and happiness, Americans say the things that make them feel wealthiest in their day-to-day lives are having personal free time and spending time with family. (When asked to focus on the numbers, respondents said they needed $1.4 million on average to be “comfortable”, or $2.4 million to really be wealthy.)
Want to see where you fit on Schwab's Modern Wealth Index? You can take a 16-question quiz at their website. But note that some questions aren't really applicable to folks who have already retired or achieved Financial Independence. Also note that you'll have to enter your contact info in order to actually see your results. (I took the quiz, but didn't see my results because I hate giving out personal info.)
Update! I just received an email from the Schwab PR team. As Rita noted in the comments below, it is possible to see your score without supplying contact info. When the contact info form appears on the screen, just leave everything blank and click the button below to move on to the numbers. I scored an 83. I think that's largely because I didn't know how to answer the income questions since I don't really have an income anymore.