A third of Americans say they got better with money during the pandemic

When the pandemic forced many Americans to readjust how they live and where they work, some took the opportunity to get proactive about their financial futures. 

Around a third, or 32%, of Americans, say they became more disciplined with their money, according to Northwestern Mutual's recent 2021 Planning & Progress survey, and 95% expect to keep it that way. 

The annual survey, conducted by The Harris Poll on behalf of Northwestern Mutual, includes responses from over 2,300 adults during a 10-day period in March 2021. The survey found that nearly 1 in 5 U.S. adults did not have a financial plan before the pandemic struck. But 83% of Americans say they either created, revisited or adjusted their financial plan during the pandemic.

The most common habit survey respondents developed is reducing their living costs and spending, with 45% of respondents saying they adopted this habit.

The second most common habit, which 34% of survey respondents say they adopted, is prioritizing paying down debt. In 2020, Americans paid off a record $82.1 billion in credit card debt, and during the first quarter of 2021, they've paid off another $56.5 billion in credit card debt, according to personal finance website WalletHub. 

Many Americans also started investing more, with 33% adopting the habit during the pandemic.

But paying down debt and investing are not the only adjustments Americans are planning to make.The survey found that 25% are considering increasing their savings and retirement contributions.

Of course, there were still many downsides. Nearly half of Americans, 45%, say the pandemic has impacted their timeline to reach financial security by one to two years, while 35% delayed making any large financial or life decisions.

While improvements in financial habits are positive, it should not overshadow the fact that adjustments are coming from a place of financial difficulties for many, Christian Mitchell, executive vice president and chief customer officer at Northwestern Mutual, said in a statement.

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