Saturday, 3 February 2024

Americans Are Surprisingly Happy With Their Finances, a Survey Shows. Here’s Why

by Rose White

<div>Americans Are Surprisingly Happy With Their Finances, a Survey Shows. Here's Why</div>

Image source: Getty Images

After the past few years of pandemic, high inflation, high interest rates, and global economic uncertainty, there is some encouraging news: The U.S. economy could be getting better in 2024. According to the Axios Vibes survey by The Harris Poll published on Jan. 17, 2024, lots of Americans are pretty happy with their personal finances.

This is a good sign that the dreaded “vibecession” is ending. For those unfamiliar, the vibecession refers to a bad economic mood caused by high prices and high interest rates. If people are feeling secure in their jobs, happy with their personal finances, and willing to keep spending and investing, the entire U.S. economy could keep growing strong in 2024 and beyond.

Let’s look at a few key findings of the Axios Vibes survey and what it might mean for the economy and for your personal finances.

1. A big majority of Americans feel “good” about their money

The Axios Vibes survey found that 63% of all Americans say that their current financial situation is “good,” and 19% said their finances are “very good.” With low unemployment and possible interest rate cuts in 2024, this could be a sign that more Americans are feeling positive about their earning power and borrowing costs.

However, not all Americans are equally happy with their personal finances. The survey found that 37% of Americans say that their personal financial situation is “poor.” These groups of Americans were more likely than the national average to say that their finances are “poor:”

  • 42% of Republicans
  • 43% of women
  • 46% of rural residents
  • 47% of single people
  • 57% of people who rent their homes

Only 32% of people who were in relationships, and 28% of Democrats, said that their personal financial situation was “poor.”

What could explain these differences of opinion? Women face a gender pay gap, where they get paid an average of $0.82 for every dollar earned by men. Single people have to pay for rising costs of housing and groceries all by themselves, without a partner to share the costs. Renters have seen their costs of housing go up, but don’t get to earn equity from rising home prices like homeowners do.

The Axios Vibes survey analysis also found that Republicans’ and rural residents’ higher level of financial dissatisfaction with the national economy “could reflect general mistrust of institutions or national leaders.” If your political party controls the White House, you might be more likely to feel like the U.S. economy is on the right track.

2. Most Americans are optimistic about the future in 2024

Looking ahead to the rest of the not quite “new” year of 2024, many Americans are feeling optimistic about the future of their personal finances. The survey found that 63% of Americans say that their job security is “a sure thing,” 66% of Americans think that 2024 will be better than 2023, and 85% of Americans believe that they can change their personal finances for the better in 2024.

This is a heartening sign. Many people, even if they’ve been struggling with higher prices and declining savings, have the power to take control of their finances. Here are a few possible ways to change your personal finances for the better in 2024:

Unemployment is at 3.7% as of December 2023, which is back to pre-pandemic levels and close to 20-year lows. Low unemployment means that lots of people have “pricing power” to demand better wages. The Fed might cut interest rates in 2024, which could make it easier to refinance your personal loans or pay off high-interest debt.

3. The U.S. economy still has room to improve in 2024

Not everyone feels great about their personal finances, and high inflation for food and gas is a big reason. People are still feeling pain from high grocery prices — the Axios survey found that:

  • 60% of Americans feel “triggered” by trips to the grocery store.
  • 67% of Americans think food will continue to get more expensive.
  • More than 50% worry that gas prices (which have been declining in recent months) will start to go up again.

As Americans have depleted their savings accounts and racked up more credit card debt, there are signs that some Americans are doing what The Harris Poll’s research describes as “consuming in denial.” This means that people are continuing to spend, even though they can’t afford it. Rising credit card delinquencies could be a sign of more pain to come for Americans who don’t have enough emergency cash savings.

Bottom line: Many Americans say that they’re happy with their personal finances, even though there are worries and frustrations about high prices and the overall economy. But almost 9 out of 10 Americans agree on one important thing: They believe in their ability to make proactive, positive changes in their financial lives. No matter what happens with the economy in 2024, you have the potential to make this a great year for your savings and investment goals.

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