Economic Outlook Brightens for American Workers


Economic Outlook Brightens for American Workers

Despite increasing optimism, many holding off on long-term financial commitments

DES MOINES, Iowa--(BUSINESS WIRE)-- More American workers feel secure about the country's overall economic outlook, according to new research from the Principal Financial Well-Being IndexSM: American Workers. More than a third of workers (35 percent) describe their economic outlook as optimistic, up from just 21 percent in the third quarter of 2012, the last time workers were asked their views on the overall economy.

Despite an increasingly positive view of the economy, American workers remain cautious when assessing their expectations for the next year. While 40 percent of workers think the economy will improve throughout 2013, a majority of workers (60 percent) still believe the economy will stay the same or worsen. Additionally, 44 percent of employees are holding off from making long-term financial commitments, such as buying a home or a car, due to the current state of the economy.

The Principal Financial Well-Being IndexSM: American Workers, surveys employees at small- and mid-sized businesses with 10 to 1,000 workers, and is part of a series on the financial well-being of American workers released quarterly by the Principal Financial Group®. The survey was conducted online by Harris Interactive® in 1Q 2013 among 1,100 employees.

"When you look at the full scope of the data, it's clear people are feeling better about the financial environment the further we get from the financial crisis," said Luke Vandermillen, vice president of retirement and investor services at The Principal®. "But the long-term effect of the crisis is workers' expectations remain muted; they are still uncertain that this is a sustainable recovery."

Making Plans

With the increase in economic optimism, workers feel encouraged to step up their savings. The survey shows that more Americans are planning for their retirement. Only 28 percent said they have not yet planned for financial security in retirement, down from 32 percent last quarter. Those working with a financial advisor are more prepared. Seventy-five percent of workers who use a financial professional are planning for retirement security, compared to only 49 percent of workers who do not use a financial professional.

"Regardless of whether you are optimistic or cautious about the economy, it is important to continue to focus on taking concrete steps towards building your financial future," Vandermillen said. "It is encouraging to see these numbers improving. And of course we're not surprised to see those working with a financial advisor are most prepared for their financial future."

Additional findings include:

Financial health

  • Nearly half of those surveyed (46 percent), up 5 percentage points from last quarter, rated themselves as financially healthy; and

  • Gen Y respondents rated themselves the highest when it comes to financial health. Fifty-six percent of Gen Y employees rated themselves as financially healthy, compared to 41 percent of Gen X workers and 42 percent of Baby Boomers.

Tax-refund planning

  • Of the 64 percent of workers who expect to receive a federal or state tax refund from their 2012 tax return, 46 percent plan to save or invest the refund, 38 percent will use it to pay down short-term debt, and 23 percent will pay down long-term debt.

  • Fifteen percent will spend their refund on consumer products and seven percent will spend on a big ticket purchase.

"As Americans receive their tax refunds this year, it is encouraging to see employees are motivated to save or invest," Vandermillen said. "The simple act of using your refund to pay off debt this year could save you hundreds of dollars in future interest charges, freeing up more money to put toward longer-term goals such as retirement."

For more news and insights from The Principal, connect with us on Twitter at View the full survey results and download the infographic at


This Principal Financial Well-Being IndexSM survey was conducted online within the United States by Harris Interactive on behalf of the Principal Financial Group® between January 25 and January 31, 2013 among 1,100 employees. This is one in a series of quarterly studies to identify and track changes in the workplace of small- and mid-sized (growing) businesses. The first Principal Financial Well-Being IndexSM survey was conducted in the United States in 2000. No estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated. For complete survey methodology, visit

About the Principal Financial Group

The Principal Financial Group® (The Principal®)1 is a global investment management leader offering retirement services, insurance solutions and asset management. The Principal offers businesses, individuals and institutional clients a wide range of financial products and services, including retirement, asset management and insurance through its diverse family of financial services companies. Founded in 1879 and a member of the FORTUNE 500®, the Principal Financial Group has $403.0 billion in assets under management2 and serves some 18.3 million customers worldwide from offices in Asia, Australia, Europe, Latin America and the United States. Principal Financial Group, Inc. is traded on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol PFG. For more information, visit

About Harris Interactive

Harris Interactive is one of the world's leading market research firms, leveraging research, technology, and business acumen to transform relevant insight into actionable foresight. Known widely for the Harris Poll® and for pioneering innovative research methodologies, Harris offers proprietary solutions in the areas of market and customer insight, corporate brand and reputation strategy, and marketing, advertising, public relations and communications research. Harris possesses expertise in a wide range of industries including health care, technology, public affairs, energy, telecommunications, financial services, insurance, media, retail, restaurant, and consumer package goods. Additionally, Harris has a portfolio of multi-client offerings that complement our custom solutions while maximizing our client's research investment. Serving clients in more than 196 countries and territories through our North American and European offices, Harris specializes in delivering research solutions that help us - and our clients—stay ahead of what's next. For more information, please visit

1 "The Principal Financial Group" and "The Principal" are registered service marks of Principal Financial Services, Inc., a member of the Principal Financial Group.
2 As of Dec. 31, 2012

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KEYWORDS: United States North America Iowa


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