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Americans Feel More Physically Fit than Fiscally Fit, Survey Shows

Workers view physical health as an investment in long-term financial health

June 13, 2012 (Des Moines, Iowa) – New research from the Principal Financial Well-Being IndexSM shows American workers are significantly more likely to rate themselves as physically healthy (53 percent) than financially healthy (31 percent).

The Principal Financial Well-Being Index, which surveys American workers at growing businesses with 10 to 1,000 workers, is released quarterly by the Principal Financial Group® and is conducted online by Harris Interactive®.

Despite continuing concerns about financial health, many American workers recognize the link between physical wellness and financial wellness, with 84 percent of workers viewing physical health as an investment in their financial future.

In particular, workers are making the connection between physical health and reducing future health expenditures: 69 percent believe it is either extremely important or very important for them to remain physically healthy in order to avoid major health expenditures later in life. Only one percent of workers think remaining physically healthy is not at all important for avoiding future major health expenditures.

"Good physical health is a growing priority as Americans recognize there is a real financial payoff," said Luke Vandermillen, vice president of retirement and investor services for The Principal®. "You really can't separate health from wealth. By staying well and spending less on health care, workers are able to save and invest more for their financial future."

Americans self-diagnose with a financial check-up

The survey also shows Americans evaluating the health of their personal finances with the same rigor they evaluate their physical health. Many workers have given themselves a financial check-up in various ways, including:

  • Monitoring spending levels (48 percent)
  • Creating a budget (28 percent)
  • Re-evaluating their investments (26 percent)
  • Reviewing their insurance policies (18 percent)
  • Creating a financial strategy (17 percent)

In addition, two-thirds of workers (66 percent) have an emergency fund they can access in the event of a job loss or other unanticipated major expense, up from 61 percent in the fourth quarter of 2009.

"The economic uncertainty of the past few years has taught Americans that they need to adopt a more hands-on, preemptive approach to their personal finances, and a financial check-up is a great tool to do just that," said Vandermillen. "We're especially encouraged by the number of workers who have emergency funds, a positive—and hopefully permanent—change in behavior resulting from the financial crisis."

Despite taking proactive steps to keep their finances in check, only a third of workers (34 percent) believe they are saving enough money in order to live comfortably in retirement. Slightly over half (51 percent) report they are making good progress toward achieving their long-term financial goals. However, those workers who work with a financial professional are significantly more likely to think they are making progress towards achieving their goals (62 percent) compared to those who do not use a financial professional (46 percent).

Not saving enough (49 percent), debt (27 percent) and not starting retirement savings early in their careers (23 percent) are the top factors workers believe prevent them from being financially successful.

Additional findings include:

State of the economy to shape the 2012 presidential election

  • Thirty-two percent of workers said the state of the economy is the financial issue that will impact their decision most in the upcoming presidential election.
  • The next financial issue of importance is health care reform, selected by 14 percent of workers.

The staycation is here to stay

  • Twenty-four percent of workers are considering a staycation for their summer vacation plans in an effort to save money, while another 11 percent said they will definitely take a staycation this summer.
  • The issue most likely to impact workers' summer vacation plans is rising fuel prices (43 percent), yet this is down significantly from the summer of 2011 (60 percent).

Most workers don't have wills

  • Over half of workers (54 percent) do not have a will.
  • Fifteen percent of workers indicate they have updated their will in the last 1-2 years, while another 11 percent of workers said they have updated it within the past 3-5 years.

For more news and insights from The Principal, connect with us on Twitter at

This Principal Financial Well-Being IndexSM survey was conducted online within the United States by Harris Interactive on behalf of the Principal Financial Group® between April 25 and May 6, 2012 among 1,135 employees. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents' propensity to be online.

This is one in a series of quarterly studies to identify and track changes in the workplace of small and mid-sized (growing) businesses. The first Principal Financial Well-Being IndexSM survey was conducted in the United States in 2000.

About the Principal Financial Group
The Principal Financial Group® (The Principal®) is a global investment management leader including retirement services, insurance solutions and asset management. The Principal offers businesses, individuals and institutional clients a wide range of financial products and services, including retirement, asset management and insurance through its diverse family of financial services companies. Founded in 1879 and a member of the FORTUNE 500®, the Principal Financial Group has $364.1 billion in assets under management and serves some 17.3 million customers worldwide from offices in Asia, Australia, Europe, Latin America and the United States. Principal Financial Group, Inc. is traded on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol PFG. For more information, visit

About Harris Interactive
Harris Interactive is one of the world's leading custom market research firms, leveraging research, technology and business acumen to transform relevant insight into actionable foresight. Known widely for the Harris Poll and for pioneering innovative research methodologies, Harris offers expertise in a wide range of industries, including health care, technology, public affairs, energy, telecommunications, financial services, insurance, media, retail, restaurant and consumer package goods. Serving clients in more than 215 countries and territories through its North American, European and Asian offices and a network of independent market research firms, Harris specializes in delivering research solutions that help clients stay ahead of what's next. For more information, visit


"The Principal Financial Group" and "The Principal" are registered service marks of Principal Financial Services, Inc., a member of the Principal Financial Group.
As of March 31, 2012

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