By Jonathan Clements, Citi’s Director of Financial Education
As summer heats up, Americans’ outlook on the national economy seems to be cooling. A new nationwide survey issued by Citi, and conducted by Hart Research Associates, shows that nearly two-thirds of Americans believe the economy has yet to hit bottom. But while their view of the overall economy isn’t all sunshine, many folks think their own personal financial outlook is a little brighter.
Of those surveyed, 24 percent said their local economy is good or excellent, up from 19 percent in March. And the percentage of Americans who say their personal financial situation is better now than a year ago has improved slightly, to 17 percent today from 15 percent in March. Perhaps more important, 64 percent of Americans remain very or somewhat optimistic that their financial situation will improve in the next 12 months.
Still, in a measure of potential consumer demand, 62 percent of Americans believe that now is only a fair or poor time to make a major household purchase and less than half say they will take a vacation this summer. That may reflect gnawing worries about debt, whether it’s student loans, mortgage debt, credit cards or unpaid healthcare bills. As many as 25 percent of survey respondents said there is at least one category of debt that is a major challenge or is becoming unmanageable.
Which bring us to a key question: Given America’s worries about the economy, jobs and their household debt, will they restrain their spending, potentially hurting the economic recovery? That’s certainly a risk.
But while Americans are gloomy about today’s economy, they display a remarkable optimism about their own financial future. The survey found that 73 percent of Americans say they are either living the American dream now or expect to live the dream in the future. That sort of optimism increases the likelihood that folks will buy a home, purchase a car and start their own business – and, along the way, help the U.S. economy to revive.