Americans are feeling a little more financially secure
First the good news. Bankrate.com’s Financial Security Index rose for a second consecutive month in January. Now the bad news. Despite those modest gains in confidence, consumers continue to feel less financially secure than they did one year ago.
The overall Financial Security Index in the Bankrate.com report measured 97.3, up from 95.8 in December and the highest since June’s 97.8. Any reading below 100 indicates a lower level of financial security compared with 12 months earlier.
“Each of the components – job security, savings, debt, net worth and overall financial security – improved over the past month,” said Greg McBride, CFA, Bankrate.com’s senior financial analyst. “This corresponds with a broader trend of positive economic data in recent weeks. But the overall Financial Security Index is still showing a decline versus one year ago, so ample room for improvement remains. The negative sentiment is highest among retirees and lower-income households.”
The report found some long-awaited improvement on the job side. Job security turned positive for the first time since May, with 20% of Americans feeling more secure than one year ago and 17% feeling less secure.
Savings is still the Achilles’ heel of financial security, with those feeling less comfortable than a year ago (41%) outnumbering those more comfortable (14%) nearly three-to-one.
Americans under age 30, college graduates and households with annual income of $75,000 or more continue to be most comfortable with their savings, while households with annual income under $30,000 and the unemployed are least comfortable.
According to the Bankrate.com survey, Americans are neutral on debt, with 23% saying they’re more comfortable than one year ago and 23% saying they’re less comfortable. This is the first time since June that Americans’ feelings on debt did not skew towards “less comfortable.”
As for net worth, sentiment turned positive for the first time since July, with 24% of Americans reporting higher net worth than one year ago and 22% reporting lower net worth. Those under age 50 are the most likely to report higher net worth than one year ago, whereas those age 50 and up are the most likely to report lower net worth. Households with annual income of $75,000 or more are the most likely to have higher net worth; those with annual income under $30,000 are most likely to report lower net worth.
So, what about the overall financial situation of respondents?
Americans’ overall financial situation is still seen as negative, with 28% saying it is worse than one year ago and 23% saying it is better. The gap between those reporting a worse situation and those reporting a better situation has narrowed each month since October. Only 12% of retirees say their overall financial situation is better now than one year ago.
Because of the time of year, the survey also inquired about holiday shopping. More than half of Americans (56%) spent about what they’d expected in the just-passed holiday season. Only 17% spent more than expected, while 24% spent less than expected (compared with 19% and 27%, respectively, last year). Households with annual income under $50,000 and those under age 30 were the most likely to say they spent less than expected.
The study was conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International (PSRAI). The PSRAI January 2012 Omnibus Week 1 obtained telephone interviews with a nationally representative sample of 1,000 adults living in the continental United States. Telephone interviews were conducted by landline (600) and cell phone (400, including 184 without a landline phone). Click here to see it in its entirety.
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