Fewer than two out of five American adults plan to make positive financial changes in 2012 as many of them expect to go through another tough financial year.

Only 39 percent plan to pay down their debt this year and only 36 percent anticipate they will be able to save more money, according to a Harris Poll of 2,237 U.S. adults who were surveyed online in December.

The survey found that only 23 percent of U.S. adults indicated that they expect the economy to improve in the year ahead, which is down from the 29 percent who said so a year ago. Instead, 29 percent say they expect the economy will get worse in 2012 while 47 percent expect it will stay the same.

Fewer Americans say they plan to pay down their level of debt in 2012 than said so in the past two years (39 percent now, compared to between 41 and 45 percent previously).

Only 36 percent of the survey respondents say they expect to save more in the year ahead, compared to the 40 percent who said so last year and 42 percent who said so in 2009. One in six of the survey respondents now say both that they will get rid of one or more credit cards (16 percent) and save more for retirement (16 percent) in 2012, whereas larger numbers (between 21 and 24 percent) expected to do both of those items in previous years.

Only one in 10 survey respondents now expect to undertake home improvements to increase the value of their home (11 percent), which is another drop from 2010 and 2011. Fewer than one in 10 say they will make less risky investments (5 percent) or take out a home equity line of credit (2 percent) in 2012. Twenty-three percent of the survey respondents say they don't expect to do anything differently financially in 2012.

However, in what could be a bright spot for the overall economy, fewer poll respondents say they will cut back their household spending in 2012 (45 percent) than said so last year (49 percent) or the previous year (55 percent).

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