Two new surveys suggest that financial optimism is on the rise.
Research from Corporate Executive Board's Consumer Financial Monitor suggests that North American consumers are feeling more positive about most aspects of their personal finances. Sentiments about savings, debt, progress toward achieving financial goals and personal finances in general all improved compared to the previous quarter. The only downbeat note in the survey was income levels, about which consumers' feelings soured -- but only slightly.
Breaking down those figures, however, one finds that mass market consumers -- those who have less than $100,000 of investable assets -- continue to feel the least optimistic about their money situation: Currently, a net percentage of 21% report negative feelings about personal finances.
(Net percentage, you ask? Take the percentage who report positive feelings; subtract the percentage who report negative feelings: There's your net percentage, one way or the other.)
By comparison, a net percentage of 21% of the mass affluent -- defined as those with investable assets of $100,000 to just shy of $1 million -- report positive sentiments. Feeling best of all -- predictably, perhaps -- are so-called "high net worth" persons, or those with $1 million or more. A net percentage of 30% of these folks report feeling good about their personal finances. In the first quarter, 65% of North American consumers fell into the mass market category, with 30% and 5% qualifying as mass affluent and high net worth, respectively.
More Secure, But Still Scared of Stocks
Meanwhile, Bankrate.com's (RATE) monthly Financial Security Index hit a new high of 99.9 in April, surpassing the previous apex, 98.5, recorded in May 2011. (The first poll was taken in December 2010.)
"Americans' attitudes regarding their net worth and overall financial situation also reached new highs this month," the company reported. "Sentiment regarding savings improved for a fifth consecutive month, and Americans' comfort level with debt is at its highest point since June 2011."
Despite consumer financial security being at its highest point in 17 months, Bankrate found that Americans remain wary of investing in this stock market. Fully 76% of respondents said they were not more inclined to invest in the stock market despite near record-low interest rates for savings; a mere 18% said they were more inclined to do so. Job security also stuck out as a "pain point": 22% of Americans reported worse job security than they had one year ago; only 20% reported better job security.
Together, these surveys suggest a sense of overall economic improvement, but reflect the toll on our collective psyches of lackluster job creation -- both in terms of quantity and quality.
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