Pew: Americans' optimism tempered by fin. insecurity

February 27, 2015

WASHINGTON (3/2/15)--U.S. consumers feel better about their day-to-day finances and the economy than they have in years, but Jane and Joe Average are still not getting ahead, according to a survey conducted by The Pew Charitable Trusts.

Click to view larger image(The Pew Charitable Trusts Image)

Many of those polled said they are barely breaking even or spending more than they make each month, and more than half said they feel unprepared for a financial emergency.

The results, captured in a new issue brief "Americans' Financial Security: Perception and Reality," are based on a nationally representative survey of more than 7,000 households, and on focus groups conducted in Orlando, Fla., Boston and Phoenix. The survey gauged Americans' perceptions of their financial security and how their views differ depending on their income, wealth, race and other demographic factors.

In late 2008, just 9% of Americans rated the economy positively. As of 2014, Pew's survey finds that figure has climbed to 27%. As low as these positive ratings may seem, they are similar to those found in polling in late 2007, on the eve of the Great Recession, and reflect more optimism than was evident during the aftermath and recovery.

As Americans' views of the economy have improved, so has their sense of their own finances. A majority (56%) rate their financial situations positively, up from 42% during the recession in 2009.

But only half of Americans (51%) said their households are financially secure. A majority (57%) said they are not financially prepared for the unexpected. More than half (55%) of respondents reported just breaking even or spending more than they make each month, and one-third (33%) said their household has no savings.

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