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Investor Psychology

Our Money Survey Reveals What Matters

We asked what's on your mind. Here's what we learned -- and how you can join our survey.

The stock market is up and the economy is on the mend, but Americans still haven't recovered their financial sea legs, according to the responses in our exclusive Thrivent Financial/Kiplinger Survey of Family Finances. Results of the wide-ranging poll conducted by Synovate eNation -- which also explored differences by gender, between spouses and among various age groups -- were surprising and sobering:

Your turn: Take our SURVEY and see how you compare.

Americans are "struggling." That's how one-third of the 1,000 respondents replied when asked to describe their financial situation. Another 24% said that they were worried, versus 29% who described their financial situation as stable. What's more, 43% said their finances had gotten worse over the past two years.

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Their concerns have shifted. "Not enough retirement savings" continues to top the charts, cited by about one-fifth of survey respondents. But Americans now worry more about losing their job than they did two years ago -- 18% versus 15% -- and are less concerned about credit-card debt -- 13% versus 18% two years ago.

They're less willing to take risks. A whopping three-fourths of those interviewed say recent market volatility has affected the way they handle money at least a little. And 55% are less willing to take risks with their money. "Ironically, by shunning stocks and thinking they are avoiding market-volatility risk, people are assuming the risk of simply not having enough growth in their retirement portfolio to reach their long-term goals," says Patrick Egan, director of asset management for Thrivent Financial.

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Financial stability is their top priority. Nearly 60% said that their most important financial goal is maintaining financial stability, compared with 23% who want to increase their assets. By contrast, two years ago 37% were more concerned about building assets and 41% wanted to maintain stability.

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Family values. Even though men have been hit harder by layoffs during the recession, women were more likely to say that they were struggling financially (37% versus 29%). And approximately 29% of both men and women said the recession had caused tension between them and their spouse or partner.

But marriage also seems to have contributed to a sense of well-being for both men and women. Unmarried respondents were far more likely than their married counterparts to report that they were struggling (40% versus 28%) and less likely to describe their situation as stable (23% versus 34%).

Just over half of those surveyed said that recent economic challenges had caused them to better align their personal values with their financial decisions. On the other hand, the recession has taken its toll on charitable activities. Asked if they give back either financially or through volunteer efforts, a significant number -- 34% -- said no.

Even if you identify with the 16% who profess not to worry about money, you can benefit from our practical advice on how to make the most of your finances at key stages in your life in Smart Moves for Life's Big Events. Plus, our story, Portfolios That Fit Your Needs, will show you how to build an investment portfolio that fits your goals and lets you sleep at night. We hope our guidance will ease your mind, keep your finances on an even keel -- and increase your assets to boot.

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