THE OPTIMIST'S CREED
They'll likely change their minds if they read the awful things economists are saying these days. For now, though, a majority of Americans are upbeat about their own financial prospects. That's evident from the chart here, which uses data from a survey by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press. As is often the case, people are cheerier about their own circumstances than about the world at large. Asked how they think "economic conditions in the country as a whole" will be a year from now, 33 percent said "better" and 23 percent said "worse," while 37 percent said "the same." Let's hope the optimists are correct, as nearly half the respondents said their finances now are either "poor" (12 percent) or "only fair" (31 percent). Ten percent said their finances are "excellent" and 43 percent said they're "good." Elsewhere in the poll, respondents were asked how "things are these days in your life." Most folks said they're "very happy" (29 percent) or "pretty happy" (51 percent); 16 percent said they're "not too happy." That's only a bit worse than in September 1996—i.e., the days of peace and plenty—when 34 percent said they were very happy, 53 percent pretty happy and 11 percent not too happy.