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Half of adults delay life changes due to finances

About half of U.S. adults have postponed a major life decision in the past year for financial reasons, mainly because they lack sufficient savings or are worried about the economy, or both, a new survey finds.

The survey, conducted for the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, found that the proportion of people delaying big decisions like buying a home or getting married had risen to 51 percent, from 31 percent in a similar survey in 2007, before the start of the financial downturn.

(The telephone survey of 1,010 adults, age 18 and older, was conducted in March by Harris Poll. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 3 percentage points.)

The change was striking, and the percentages more than doubled in some areas. Nearly a quarter said they had delayed higher education, up from 11 percent in 2007, and 18 percent said they had put off retiring, compared with 9 percent in the earlier survey. Twenty-two percent said they delayed buying a home in 2015, compared with 14 percent in 2007.

The change also was evident in life decisions that weren’t solely financial in nature: 13 percent said they had delayed having children, compared with 5 percent in 2007, and 12 percent said they had postponed marriage, up from 5 percent in 2007.

Susan Bruno, a financial planner and a member of the institute’s National CPA Financial Literacy Commission, said that the young people she counsels, in particular, often say that it’s more difficult to sustain a relationship if a couple is under financial duress, so they are waiting until they have jobs that help them feel more secure about money.

“They know the biggest stress on a marriage is financial,” she said.

Additionally, 19 percent put off a medical procedure, compared with 9 percent in 2007.

The primary reason given for the delays was a lack of savings, which was cited by 60 percent of Americans. That was followed by worries about the economy (50 percent) and difficulty paying monthly bills, other than the mortgage. Other reasons included a need to take care of older relatives or pay down credit card debt, and difficulty making mortgage payments, as well as concerns about job security.

But consumers in the recent survey did say they were trying to be more conscientious about their finances. More than half of respondents said they were adhering to a monthly budget (58 percent); 44 percent said they were saving more; and 35 percent said they were creating or adding to an emergency fund.