Ups And Downs – Or Neither

As the recession drags on, one would expect consumers to exhibit increasing nervousness about their own finances. On the whole, though, it hasn’t happened—yet. The figures in the chart below, drawn from a study by the Pew Center for the People & the Press, aren’t significantly different from those of a year ago. For that matter, they’re only a bit gloomier than the findings of polls conducted amid the boom years of the 1990s. Asked how easy it is “to afford the things in life that you want,” 5 percent said “very easy” and 44 percent said “easy,” vs. 37 percent answering “difficult” and 11 percent “very difficult.” Here again, there’s no more than a negligible difference between these numbers and those of a year ago. What about the future? Eleven percent of respondents expect their own financial situation to “improve a lot” over the course of the next year, and 55 percent believe it will “improve some”; 15 percent think it will “get a little worse,” and 4 percent expect it to “get a lot worse.” Another 11 percent think it will “stay the same.” As is often the case, Americans are less inclined to be optimistic about the nation at large than about their own prospects. Thus, 30 percent think the national economy will be better a year from now, while 20 percent think it’ll be worse. Nearly half (46 percent) expect it to remain about the same.