How Americans feel about their money going into the New Year

According to a recent survey from Pew Research Center.

A recent survey by Pew Research Center explored how Americans feel about their finances now, compared to this time last year.
A recent survey by Pew Research Center explored how Americans feel about their finances now, compared to this time last year. –Getty

Compared with last year, Americans are feeling slightly better about their money, according to a recent survey by Pew Research Center.

Conducted from December 8 to December 13, 2015 among 1,500 adults, the national survey asked Americans questions about their income, job availability, and minimum wage compared to this time last year.

Their answers showed that Americans are more likely to say their incomes are keeping pace with the cost of living than they were last year, and are also more likely to say local job prospects are improved – but those of different ages and socioeconomic backgrounds had very different responses.

When asked about their family’s income, about 42 percent said their incomes are staying even with the cost of living, up from 37 percent in January. And while nearly half (49 percent) of respondents said their incomes are falling behind, this number is down from 55 percent who felt this way in January.

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Those who do feel their incomes are falling behind, however, are far more likely to be less educated individuals earning lower incomes (under $30,000 per year).

While 72 percent of people with postgraduate degrees said their incomes are keeping pace with the cost of living, nearly the same percentage of those in households earning less than $30,000 annually felt the exact opposite, with 68 percent of low-income households saying they’re falling behind.

Young people are also more optimistic bout their wages than the older population, with 63 percent of young people ages 18 to 29 saying their family’s income is staying even with or rising faster than the cost of living.

Meanwhile, 60 percent of those over 50 said their family’s income is falling behind.

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Views of personal finances have only changed slightly from last year, but are mostly optimistic, with 43 percent describing their financial situation as “excellent’’ or “good,’’ and 39 percent calling it “fair.’’ Only 17 percent rated their finances as “poor,’’ and 61 percent expect their finances to improve over the next year.

Somewhat unsurprisingly, those with higher levels of education and better jobs are more likely to be optimistic about personal finances, with 66 percent of those making over $100,000 per year expecting their finances to improve this year, compared to 58 percent of those making below $30,000 per year.

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Still, when it comes to income, only 7 percent said their wages are currently going up faster than the cost of living.

This could help explain why an overwhelming number of respondents – over 73 percent – said they were in favor of raising the federal minimum wage, though settling on a specific number garnered a wide range of responses ranging from less than $10 per hour, to $15 per hour or higher.

In terms of job availability, Americans are also feeling pretty positive, but slightly less so if you ask them about finding a “good job.’’

About 41 percent said there are plenty of jobs in their communities, which is basically unchanged from May (40 percent), yet Pew points out this is the most positive assessment of local job conditions in eight years.

When asked about the availability of “good jobs,’’ however, the number dropped to 33 percent saying they could find them in their community. Those with postgraduate degrees feel a little more optimistic with 45 percent confident there are good jobs available in their community.

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