The economy may be showing signs of improvement, but Americans are still feeling financially insecure, study says
Economic indicators may have shown recent signs of improvement, but Americans are still feeling less financially secure than a year ago, according to a survey by Bankrate.com.
The telephone survey of 1,000 people included questions pertaining to five "core tenets" of financial security: job security, savings, debt, net worth and one's overall financial situation, said Bankrate.com's senior financial analyst, Greg McBride.
While Bankrate.com's Financial Security Index showed incremental improvement since December, and even since last summer when the run-up in gas prices prompted a sharp cutback in spending, consumers are "still not where we need to be," McBride said. "They're still on the negative side of the ledger."
The index measured 97.3, an increase from 95.8 in December but below the 98.5 measurement of January 2011, McBride said. Any reading below 100 indicates a lower level of financial security compared with 12 months earlier, he said.
"Looking right now, mortgage rates are at record lows, home prices are the lowest in years, home affordability is the best in decades, yet no one is buying houses," he said. "People still feel slightly worse off."
Why the insecurity? By a 3-to-1 margin, Americans said they weren't comfortable with the amount of money they have tucked away, McBride said. It's not just that they feel they need more savings. Many people aren't getting raises, yet household expenses continue to creep up, so there's concern about savings not keeping pace with inflation. People also recognize that the savings they have won't take them as far if they need to tap it.
The news isn't all grim. For the first time since the second quarter of last year, people are feeling better about their job security. The economy needs to continue its slow, steady growth, allowing for consistent improvement in the job market, for consumer attitudes to continue to rebound.
"We've carried positive (economic) momentum into 2012, but the pattern of the past few years is that we start out strong and then in the second quarter through the middle of the year, we hit a soft patch," McBride said. "Consumer feelings will reflect the path the economy takes."
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