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March 2014 Financial Security Index charts

Bankrate's monthly survey measures how secure Americans feel about their personal finances compared with 12 months ago. From March 6-9, telephone interviews (on landlines and cellphones) with 1,003 adults living in the continental U.S. were conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International. The results of Bankrate's Financial Security Index have a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points. This month, the index rose to 102.2 from a 99.3 reading in February.

When was the last time you visited a bank branch or credit union branch to conduct personal financial business? This does not include using an ATM. Was it:

Highlights:

  • Younger people were less likely to visit their banks or credit unions. Only 19 percent of respondents between 18 and 29 years old said they visited within the last week, compared with 29 percent for those between 30 and 49 years old.
  • More education meant more trips to the bank. Thirty-five percent of respondents with at least some college experience said they visited the bank within the last week, compared with 21 percent who had a high school education or less.
  • Smaller incomes meant fewer trips to the bank. Among respondents who earn less than $30,000 a year, 29 percent said the last time they visited a bank was more than 12 months ago. That's nearly twice as much as respondents who made $75,000 or more per year.
How do you feel about your job security compared with 12 months ago?

Highlights:

  • City dwellers were more likely to feel secure. Among respondents living in urban areas, 28 percent said they felt more secure, compared with 19 percent from people who live in the suburbs.
  • Southerners had more concerns than others. Respondents living in the South were twice as likely to say they were "less secure today" than respondents living in the Northeast or Midwest.
  • Younger people were more confident. Among respondents between the ages of 18 and 29, 27 percent said they were "more secure today," compared with 14 percent of respondents between the ages of 50 and 64.
How do you feel about the amount of money you have in savings compared with 12 months ago?

Highlights:

  • People nearing retirement were more concerned about their savings. Among respondents between the ages of 50 and 64, 39 percent said they were less comfortable with their savings. That compares with 27 percent for respondents between 18 and 29.
  • College grads were more comfortable about their savings. Among graduates, 28 percent said they were more comfortable with their savings, compared with 18 percent who didn’t have a diploma.
  • Confidence is higher among workers. Among those who had at least a part-time job, 25 percent said they were more comfortable with their savings. That compares with 14 percent of retirees.
How do you feel about the amount of debt you have compared with 12 months ago?

Highlights:

  • A job makes it easier to feel good about your debt. Among those with full-time jobs, 32 percent said they were more comfortable about their debt, compared with 21 percent of unemployed respondents.
  • Southerners were less concerned than others. Among respondents from the South, 18 percent said they were less comfortable about their debt, compared with 28 percent from the Northeast.
  • Younger respondents were more concerned. Twenty-seven percent of respondents between 18 and 29 years old said they were less comfortable about their debt, compared with 17 percent of those 65 and older.
Please think about your net worth, or your total assets, including any real estate equity, minus your debts. Compared with 12 months ago, is your net worth:

Highlights:

  • More education means better chances for increased net worth. Among those with a college degree, 40 percent said they had a higher net worth. That's twice as much as those with a high school degree or less.
  • Those with lower incomes struggled to build their nest egg. Twenty-five percent of respondents with incomes of $30,000 or less said their net worth is lower. That compares with only 8 percent of those who made at least $75,000 a year.
  • People in the Northeast struggled to build wealth. Of the respondents who live in the Northeast, 20 percent said their net worth was higher. That compares with 30 percent of respondents from the Midwest and South.
Compared with 12 months ago, do you feel your overall financial situation is:

Highlights:

  • It feels good to be working. Among those with a job, 36 percent said their overall financial situation was better today. That compares with 20 percent of those who were unemployed and 21 percent of retirees.
  • It feels good to be young. Younger respondents -- those between 18-29 and 30-49 -- were more likely to say they felt better about their financial situation than older groups.
  • It feels good to be educated. Thirty-nine percent of respondents with a college diploma said they felt better today, compared with 23 percent of those who didn't attend college.

Editor's note: Percentages may not equal 100, due to rounding.

Financial Security Index

Bankrate's Financial Security Index gauges how Americans feel today versus a year ago on vital financial matters. An index value of less than 100 indicates declining levels of financial security; a value greater than 100 reveals higher levels of security compared to 12 months ago.

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