Another year. Another 500 personal finance surveys?

January 4, 2011

I have often said that I would be a rich woman if had $1,000 for every retirement survey that crossed my desk.

When I began covering personal finance-related topics in 1995, surveys and polls were relatively rare. Now they sprout up like mushrooms after an August rainfall. And yet I have no idea how many of these research studies are churned out every year. I’d venture to say it is in the triple digits. Since last July, for example, I received approximately 50 surveys focusing on retirement-related issues. I know this to be true because I dumped them all into an Outlook folder.

Thus, one of my new year’s resolutions is to keep score of the personal finance research that floods my inbox. With the help of the Prism Money team, we will be tracking personal finance-related surveys in the coming year.

Just to be clear, I don’t want to discourage personal finance research. Polls, surveys and studies can be extremely helpful for reporters, providing the framework for trend stories. And they can be fascinating. The most recent Reuters/Ipsos poll, for example, finds that 7 in 10 consumers have a financial resolution for 2011. My favorite detail: Indonesians, South Africans and Chinese are the keenest on resolutions, while respondents in Hungary, Japan and Germany are the least interested. (Having lived amid pessimistic Hungarians in the early 1990s, that doesn’t surprise me.)

Studies can be good for consumers, too. For example, the seminal OppenheimerFunds study on women and investing conducted in the 1990s is credited with putting the planning needs of women on the radar screen of the financial services industry.

But another survey that shows baby boomers are worried about retirement security? Puhleeze! And there is the rub: while some surveys are valuable, many are not. “Done well — and with scrupulous attention to methodology, question bias and response size — a smart public opinion poll can play a critical role in identifying, calling attention to, and helping to understand an unrecognized or under-explored issue,” says Rob Densen, CEO and founder of Tiller llc., a media strategy firm (which also pitches me plenty of thoughtful financial research). Full disclosure: Densen formerly served as director of corporate affairs at OppenheimerFunds.

Some of my favorite market research on personal finance topics comes from Pew Research, GFK Roper and Mathew Greenwald. I’m also partial to research conducted by Towers Watson.

So far in 2011, I’ve received just three paltry pitches for personal finance studies. One to be released later this month shows a shift in attitudes by younger investors. Another embargoed release looks at the financial sophistication of retail investors. And this poll from the National Foundation for Credit Counseling finds that decreasing debt was a¬†top consumer¬†financial resolution.

Help us in our quest to survey the surveys in 2011. You can comment here on our blog, or tweet us via @Prism_Money. (If you are a media relations person, bad news: We will not write about each and every tome that is published, but we will monitor the body of personal finance research that is produced in 2011.)

One comment

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see

Thanks for the interesting post.

Here’s one study you may have missed. We at EARN ( conducted a poll in late 2010 to survey the financial security of Americans from all income brackets. We found that over half of Americans lack a financial safety net; not good!

Looking forward to seeing the results of your aggregation efforts.



Posted by hill.charlotte | Report as abusive

[…] is a top consumer financial resolutions. We seek to help investigate the 2011 survey in us. Read More Share and […]

Posted by Another year. Another 500 personal finance surveys? – Reuters Blogs | Personal Counselor | Report as abusive