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Life Milestones Lead to Financial Stress for Majority of Americans, Outweighs Emotional Stress

New research shows consumers desire more financial flexibility to celebrate life’s big moments

Most Americans will celebrate a major life milestone in the next year, and it’s no surprise that marking those moments can come with some emotional stress. However, new research from Citizens and Wakefield reveals that paying for these life events is what really weighs on people, and that access to more payment options could help ease the way.

According to the research, 78% of Americans will experience a major life milestone in the next decade, and half will encounter a major life event within the next 12 months; and while major life moments can take an emotional toll, 60% of Americans and 73% of Gen Z Americans say the financial stress of paying for the event is greater than the associated emotional stress.

Increased financial flexibility, including more payment options, would enhance these milestones, which for the year ahead include celebrating a wedding anniversary (18%) and purchasing a new home (15%). For the more than 3 in 4 Gen Z consumers who anticipate a major life event this year, 42% will move into a new apartment, 16% are starting college, and 11% are getting married.

“There’s a disconnect between consumer desire to celebrate life’s big moments in the way they want and their ability to pay for those moments without high levels of financial anxiety,” said Christine Roberts, Executive Vice President and Head of Citizens Pay, a market leading point-of-sale consumer financing solution. “Predictable, low interest monthly payment options, such as installment financing, can help remove financial stress and enable people to more readily enjoy life’s key moments. This is a critical insight as we continue to innovate and deliver new products that can help consumers responsibly manage their financial lives.”

Financial Flexibility for Major Milestone

Americans are eager to celebrate life’s biggest moments, but many wish they had the financial flexibility to afford a better or more luxurious item related to the event.

  • Weddings: Of those who had a wedding or are planning to marry, 82% wish they could have the financial flexibility to afford a more luxurious honeymoon (54%) or more expensive wedding rings (28%).
  • New Homes: Nearly all (97%) of those planning to buy a new home wish they had the financial flexibility to afford more, including higher quality furniture (51%), more smart home electronics (43%), and top of the line appliances (42%).
  • Family Planning: Nearly 3 in 4 parents (74%) and those expecting to welcome a child into their homes wish they had the financial flexibility to provide a better amenity, including higher quality furniture (41%) and smart electronics, like a baby monitor (38%).
  • College: Among those that have started college or expect to, 92% wish they had the financial flexibility to afford a relevant item, such as personal electronics (62%), funds to travel home more often (57%), and appliances for dorm rooms (56%).

Planning for Big Purchases

With 9 in 10 consumers planning to make large purchases in the next 12 months – including a vacation (42%), a new cell phone (42%), a new laptop (36%) and new furniture (31%), consumer installment financing options, such as Citizens Pay, let consumers safely and securely pay off a purchase over time. While credit cards (64%) and cash (48%) are the leading ways consumers will consider paying for purchases of $500 or more in the next 12 months, 17% will consider using buy-now-pay-later (BNPL) services.

Pay Off Over Time

Having the financial flexibility to make big ticket purchases (53%) is the top benefit that consumers cite for using BNPL services, along with ease of applying (39%), and being accepted at most retailers (29%).

In the past 12 months, nearly 1 in 5 consumers (18%) have used BNPL services for purchases of $500 or more, driven by Millennials (29%) and Gen X (19%). Nearly half (46%) of consumers who have not used BNPL will consider it for upcoming purchases of $500 or more, particularly as prices rise due to inflation.

Citizens Pay is an innovative consumer financing solution that is embedded into the customer journey to maximize sales and drive customer loyalty, both in-store and online. To learn more, please visit

Research Methodology

In partnership with Wakefield Research, the online survey was conducted among 2,000 nationally representative U.S. adults ages 18+, including an oversample of 500 Gen Z respondents, between January 20 and January 29, 2023. For the purpose of this survey, BNPL was described as a loan that allows consumers to purchase a product or service immediately and pay for it over time in a series of fixed installments, with either no interest or low interest charges.

About Citizens Financial Group, Inc.

Citizens Financial Group, Inc. is one of the nation’s oldest and largest financial institutions, with $226.7 billion in assets as of December 31, 2022. Headquartered in Providence, Rhode Island, Citizens offers a broad range of retail and commercial banking products and services to individuals, small businesses, middle-market companies, large corporations and institutions. Citizens helps its customers reach their potential by listening to them and by understanding their needs in order to offer tailored advice, ideas and solutions. In Consumer Banking, Citizens provides an integrated experience that includes mobile and online banking, a full-service customer contact center and the convenience of approximately 3,400 ATMs and approximately 1,100 branches in 14 states and the District of Columbia. Consumer Banking products and services include a full range of banking, lending, savings, wealth management and small business offerings. In Commercial Banking, Citizens offers a broad complement of financial products and solutions, including lending and leasing, deposit and treasury management services, foreign exchange, interest rate and commodity risk management solutions, as well as loan syndication, corporate finance, merger and acquisition, and debt and equity capital markets capabilities. More information is available at or visit us on Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook.


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