Compared to 12 months ago, do you feel your overall financial situation is:

Nearly one-third of those younger than 30 say their overall situation is better today than it was last year. Only 17 percent of those approaching retirement (age 50-64) feel likewise.
Seventeen percent of those with a high school education or less feel they're better off today than last year, up from 11 percent in October.
Among low earners (less than $30,000), 19 percent feel better off, while 38 percent feel their overall finances are worse.
Dan Danford

"Recent years have been hard, and that's a tough feeling for some people to shake."

Almost half of the people surveyed said their situation is about the same today as a year ago. Of the rest, more think their situation (is) worse than better. None of this surprises me because our national mood tilts toward pessimism right now. But I'm reminded of the old saying that it seems darkest right before the dawn. Recent years have been hard, and that's a tough feeling for some people to shake. Chances are good that those people will still feel bad even as their financial situation slowly improves. Even in the best of economic times, improvement comes in small increments. There aren't a lot of "Hallelujah!" days in personal finance.

- Dan Danford, CFP, principal at Family Investment Center in St. Joseph, Mo.

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