U.S. consumer sentiment fell in August to its lowest since last November while a barometer of current economic conditions rose to its highest since July 2007, a survey released Friday showed.
The Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan's preliminary August reading on the overall index on consumer sentiment came in at 79.2, down from a final reading of 81.8 the month before.
It was below the the median forecast of 82.5 among economists polled by Reuters, and was the lowest since a reading of 75.1 in November of last year.
"While the data implies differential prospects for retailers, consumer confidence remains at moderately positive levels, high enough to support a continued expansion in personal consumption during the year ahead," survey director Richard Curtin said in a statement.
The survey's barometer of current economic conditions rose to 99.6 from 97.4 and above a forecast of 97.8.
The survey's gauge of consumer expectations slipped for a fourth straight month, to 66.2 from 71.8. The subindex was below an expected 73 and was the lowest since last October.
The survey's one-year inflation expectation rose to 3.4 percent from 3.3 percent, while the survey's five-to-10-year inflation outlook rose to 2.8 percent from 2.7 percent.
"Importantly, upper income households reported quite substantial financial progress," Curtin said. "But they reported the same sized losses as lower income households in their outlook for the overall economy."
6 Financial Issues to Tackle in the Fall
Consumer Sentiment Slips Even as Economy Improves
For many employers, open enrollment season for some benefits happens in October. This usually sneaks up on some people, who scramble to decipher benefits and make elections last minute. Although you won't be able to see the options until the enrollment period opens, take time now to review your benefits. Are you taking advantage of any 401(k) matches? Are your fully funding your Flexible Spending Account? What about employer offered life and disability insurance? (A fun infographic from the Council for Disability Awareness shows your risks). Maximize your benefits and don't leave any money on the table.
Back-to-school time can be expensive if you're not prepared. Money is spent on clothes, books, supplies and technology -- and that's before the doors to the classroom have even opened. Before hitting the stores, do these two things:
Conduct an online search for "coupon code" along with the name of any store you'll be shopping at. Typically you can find some great online deals.
Get a list from you class or teacher of specific type of notebook, calculator, etc. required. If you can't get child's "must haves" from ahead of time, buy just the bare minimums until school starts and the list is available.
It's hard to think about the holidays when we're just making it through summer, but now is the time to build up a financial cushion. Set yourself up with an automatic transfer to a separate savings account and participate in the Holiday Fund Money Challenge to build up a savings of $450. How much do you need for the gifts, travel, parties, entertaining, food and other holiday activities you anticipate? Planning will help to ease the stress that comes around the holidays.
In lieu of scrambling at the end of the year to make contributions to retirement accounts by Dec. 31, double-check your contributions now and determine if there's room in your cash flow to allow for an increase to possibly max out by year end.
Summer is a typically a time of transitions. There are weddings, moves to new homes, possibly a new family addition and more. If summer is the time when these events take place, fall should be the time to take stock of how they're panning out. If you're recently married and haven't already, now is the time to have the money talk with your spouse and make decisions about spending plans, merging (or not merging) accounts, beneficiary updates and more. If you've moved, check out how the new location has affected your cost of living spending in terms of activities, gas costs, groceries and more. Ultimately with any transition, you need to review your spending plan and determine what areas (if any) need to be adjusted.
If you're lucky enough to live in one of the states that actually experiences seasons, fall is the time to prep for energy savings by caulking and weatherstripping doors and windows, turning your thermostat back for a fixed period each day and insulating your attic, basement or outside walls.