Nearly 9 in 10 Atlantans Confident about City’s Future, With Many Planning to Retire in Greater Atlanta Area, Finds Merrill Edge Report

Wednesday, June 19th, 2019

Bank of America announced local findings from the latest Merrill Edge Report which reveal that Atlantans are highly optimistic about the local economy over the next five years (89 percent), and many plan to retire in the greater metro area.

This biannual study of more than 1,000 mass affluent respondents explores Americans’ evolving financial concerns and priorities. Based on an oversample of 300 Atlanta residents1, the latest report finds 71 percent of area respondents have started planning for retirement, and nearly half (46 percent) intend to live out their golden years in Atlanta:

Atlantans of all ages feel optimistic about the city’s economic future, including Gen Z (94 percent), millennials (89 percent), Gen X (86 percent) and baby boomers (90 percent).

Respondents who plan to retire in the greater Atlanta area would do so in light of the cost of living (51 percent), weather (51 percent), housing (32 percent), culture (26 percent) and access to healthcare (25 percent).

However not everyone sees the city through “peach-colored” glasses, as nearly one-quarter (23 percent) plan to leave Atlanta after retirement, with their top grievances including traffic (43 percent), crime (39 percent) and the city’s fast-paced nature (30 percent).

While Atlantans are confident about the city’s growth potential, 59 percent worry about their own financial security over the next five years. Their greatest concerns include the potential for inadequate savings (58 percent), a looming recession (44 percent) and market volatility (39 percent).

“It’s great to see Atlanta residents of all ages planning for retirement, and great for the city that many intend to stay here,” said Aron Levine, head of Consumer Banking & Investments for Bank of America, who is based in Atlanta. “While area residents are confident about the growth of their city, many fear their own financial security. Establishing a financial plan and tracking progress toward near and longer-term goals can be key to living comfortably today and in the future.”

Merrill is committed to empowering clients and helping them plan for the future at every age and in every stage of their financial lives through a combination of tools, people and know-how across Merrill Edge Self-Directed, Merrill Guided Investing, and Merrill Lynch Wealth Management.

Mom and dad would be proud

The vast majority (84 percent) of Atlantans believe how they manage their finances today would make their parents proud. This may be due in part to savvier spending habits and the fact that 84 percent of Atlanta residents improved their financial lives in meaningful ways in the last year, including raising their credit score (52 percent), paying off some or all of their credit card debt (51 percent) and establishing an emergency fund by setting enough aside to live on for three months without an income (33 percent).

Atlantans are also more optimistic they will reach certain financial milestones within their lifetime than their national counterparts, including:

Paying off all their credit card debt (94 percent, compared to 89 percent nationally).

Buying a home (89 percent, compared to 83 percent nationally).

Paying off their mortgage (88 percent, compared to 80 percent nationally).

Going on multiple vacations a year (80 percent, compared to 75 percent nationally).

Always on my mind

While Atlantans are becoming more conscientious about money and mindful of their spending, many admit that their financial life weighs heavily on their personal well-being, affecting both their mental health (59 percent) and physical health (52 percent).

One source of concern is debt. Excluding their mortgages, 78 percent of residents are carrying around some form of debt.

The types of debt respondents are dealing with the most include credit cards (54 percent), auto loans (43 percent) and student loans (20 percent).

Sixteen percent of Atlantans with debt owe more than $20,000, while 19 percent owe $50,000 or more.

In order to pay off debt, 65 percent of respondents are putting certain activities and milestones on the back burner, including going on vacation (41 percent), buying a car (38 percent), moving to a more expensive city or neighborhood (24 percent) and buying a home (23 percent).

Atlantans are also putting their money where their mouth is. Two in five (40 percent) willing to spend more at a retailer whose values align with their own, while 51 percent would stop buying products from companies whose values fundamentally conflict with their own (compared to 40 percent nationally).

All in the family

With one of the largest generational wealth transfers on the horizon, 94 percent of Atlantans want to leave money and other assets behind, mainly to their children (63 percent), spouse/partner (55 percent), siblings (16 percent) and nonprofit organizations (15 percent). However, that doesn’t necessarily mean they have a plan in place to do so.

Seventy-eight percent of Atlanta parents want to leave an inheritance for their children, and 35 percent are making sacrifices to their lifestyle today to leave more later, including buying fewer personal items (36 percent), cutting back on dining out and entertainment (34 percent), reducing their travel and vacations (31 percent), and delaying retirement (20 percent).

The majority (62 percent) of Atlantans have not consulted with a financial professional about their estate planning, including 57 percent of baby boomers.