Over 8 in 10 Americans Shifted Financial Priorities Due to Pandemic, Focusing More on Debt and Emergency Funds

Staff Report

Thursday, September 10th, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in a lot of changes, ranging from the postponement of major life events to the way companies do business. A new survey from DepositAccounts reveals that consumers' financial priorities are no exception. In fact, the survey found that an overwhelming 82% of respondents said the coronavirus pandemic has caused them to change their financial priorities in some way. Perhaps the silver lining of the economic cloud brought on by the COVID-19 crisis is that more consumers are developing healthy financial habits during this time of turmoil. 

Key Findings:

  • Of those surveyed, 82% said the coronavirus pandemic has changed their financial priorities in some way, including becoming more focused on paying down debt (36%) and building an emergency fund (33%).

  • When asked what their number one financial priority is right now, consumers said paying off debt (25%), paying monthly bills (19%) and building an emergency fund (14%).

  • The survey revealed that financial priorities vary by age group. Gen Z is most focused on finding a better job (31%), while millennials and Gen X are putting their energy toward paying off debt (25% and 28%, respectively).

  • There were also differences in financial priorities between men and women. Men said their top financial priority is paying off debt (29% versus 22% of women), while women are primarily focused on paying their monthly bills (30% versus 8% of men).

  • Nearly a third (32%) of consumers said they're tracking their spending more often as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Additionally, 28% are better at sticking to their budget and 24% are saving more money.

  • About 45% of consumers are checking their bank account more frequently than they did prior to the pandemic,mainly to see if their relief check or unemployment benefits were deposited or to track their spending.

  • Consumers have learned a number of money lessons from the crisis. The top three most important lessons consumers said they've learned are the necessity of having an emergency fund (28%), the importance of paying off debt during the good times (19%) and the fact that no industry or role is immune to layoffs (19%).

"The focus should first be to establish at least a small emergency fund, with an amount of around $1,000. That can be used to pay for small emergencies, and that could prevent going further into debt," said Ken Tumin, founder of DepositAccounts. "After that, the focus should be to pay off high-interest debt. Once progress on that is made, effort can go toward building the emergency fund along with paying off other debt."

To view the full report, visit: https://www.depositaccounts.com/blog/long-term-savings-habits-changes-amid-pandemic.html.


DepositAccounts commissioned Qualtrics to conduct an online survey of 1,010 Americans, with the sample base proportioned to represent the overall population. We defined generations as the following ages in 2020:

  • Gen Z as ages 18 to 23

  • Millennials as ages 24 to 39

  • Gen X as ages 40 to 54

  • Baby boomers as ages 55 to 74

  • Silent generation as ages 75 and older

The survey was fielded July 24-26, 2020.