Consumers are choosing decreasing debt over putting away savings as their No. 1 priority for the new year, according to an online poll by the National Foundation for Credit Counseling.

NFCC, which surveyed 6,100 individuals in December, said it found the rejection of savings as a priority “worrisome” for financial institutions and underscored the need for stepped up financial education.

In the poll, NFCC asked consumers about their financial New Year’s resolutions and of the respondents, 76% said they would seek to decrease debt, 6% said increase savings, 11% said improve their credit scores and 7% said they wanted to decrease their dependence on credit cards.

“Decreasing debt is certainly a worthwhile goal,” said the NFCC. “However, seeing only 6% of respondents citing saving as a top financial priority” is troubling because many experts consider saving as a means toward financial stability.

The disparity suggests a real need for heightened financial literacy, said the NFCC, which has been recommending that consumers save 10% of their monthly earnings. NFCC, based in Silver Spring, Md., is the nation’s largest trade group serving nonprofit counseling agencies with 850 offices in the U.S. Housing Loans Still Suffer

As of Nov. 30 of last year, one in every 7.5 homeowners in the U.S. were either behind on their mortgage payments or in foreclosure, according to a leading mortgage services vendor.

Lender Processing Services, a provider of technology and services to mortgage originators and servicers, reported the news in its December Mortgage Monitor Report.

Excluding foreclosures, the company reported that total delinquencies increased to 9.97%, which represented a 5.46% increase month over month and an increase of 21.29% year over year. Loans moving to a more delinquent status over the period were 5.01% while only 1.52% of the loans improved.

Of all the loans that were current as of Dec. 30, 2008, 4,37% were either 60 or more days delinquent or in foreclosure by end of November 2009, a rate higher than any other year for the same period.

The company reported that foreclosure starts have continued to decline as more homeowners participate in loss mitigation efforts such as the U.S. Treasury Department’s Making Home Affordable Modification Program.

“The reduction in foreclosure starts, combined with the steady increase in the number of seriously delinquent loans, has resulted in an ever-growing ‘shadow’ inventory of troubled properties,” the firm added.

The company reported that the states with most non-current loan include Florida, Nevada, Mississippi, Arizona, Georgia, California, Michigan, Indiana, Ohio and Illinois

States with fewest noncurrent loans include North Dakota, South Dakota, Alaska, Wyoming, Montana, Nebraska, Vermont, Colorado, Oregon and Iowa.