Consumers Remain Cautious

NEW YORK Even as positive news about the economy begins to trickle in, Americans remain cautious about their spending, according to new research from the Principal Financial Group. The financial services company’s Principal Financial Well-Being Index, conducted by Harris Interactive, found that 94 percent of Americans said their overall spending is the same or less than last quarter.
The index, which polled 1,147 currently employed workers and 558 retirees, found that 44 percent of respondents are concerned about being able to afford basic necessities. Forty-one percent are concerned about maintaining their quality of life.
Looking specifically at the employees, the respondents have taken a number of measures to cut back their spending, by far the most popular being to prepare more meals at home instead of eating out (61 percent). The next most common savings strategies are to lower the thermostat at home (38 percent), start bringing lunch to work (31 percent) and “shop in my own closet” instead of making new purchases (30 percent).
But while these shifts in habits were common among respondents, fewer described making major shifts, such as selling items like jewelry or artwork (9 percent) or downsizing the number of cars owned (3 percent).
Just under half of both retirees and current workers (48 percent) said they have paid more often with cash than with credit cards in the past six months.
“This economy taught Americans to spend less and save more,” said Dan Houston, president of retirement and investor services at the Principal Financial Group, in a statement. “It’s crucial that we don’t forget those lessons and continue to save responsibility for the long term.”
Current employees describe having taken a number of actions in preparation for possible layoffs from employers, including cutting spending on miscellaneous items like take-out coffee and entertainment (45 percent) and putting aside more money in savings (25 percent). However, 44 percent respond that they have taken no actions in preparation for being laid off.