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After 2-month slump, financial security swings higher in September

When crisis hits, older Americans more likely to raid retirement savings »

Americans are increasingly upbeat about their personal finances, according to a monthly reading by Bankrate.

Bankrate's Financial Security Index, which is driven by a national telephone survey, ended the summer on a high note at 102.6, its strongest reading since June. Its September reading showed improvement in all 5 components: job security, savings, debt, net worth and overall financial situation.

Bankrate Chief Financial Analyst Greg McBride, CFA, notes that the youngest group in the survey (ages 18 to 29) felt better about their overall financial situation than any other group. That optimism diminishes with age, however; more than a quarter of those nearing retirement (ages 50 to 64) said their situation is worse now than it was a year ago.

McBride says that's a "troubling" development, especially for anyone over 50. "These years are the home stretch in preparing for retirement."

The FSI uses a national telephone survey that's conducted in English and Spanish by Princeton Survey Research Associates International. Calls were made between Sept. 3 and 6 with 1,004 adults living in the continental U.S. The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.7 percentage points.

Highlights:

  • Nearly one-fifth of retirement-age Americans said they've used some of their retirement savings to pay for an emergency.
  • The higher their income, the less likely people are to dip into their nest egg. More than 90% of people who make $75,000 or more said they haven't touched their retirement savings.
  • People living in the South were more than twice as likely as people in the West to have used their retirement savings for an emergency.

Highlights:

  • 36% of men said they're more secure about their jobs, compared with 24% of women.
  • Republicans were more than twice as likely as Democrats to say they're less secure about their jobs.
  • The youngest age group (18-29) was twice as likely to say they're more secure about their jobs than the oldest age group (65 and up).

Highlights:

  • 21% of men said they felt more comfortable with their savings this year, compared with 14% of women.
  • People who never attended college were more likely to say they were more comfortable with their savings than those who took some college courses without graduating.
  • Among Republicans, 38% said they were less comfortable with their savings, compared with 27% of Democrats.

Highlights:

  • Those with the highest incomes ($75,000 or more) were more than twice as likely to say they were more comfortable with their debt than people with the lowest incomes (less than $30,000).
  • Nearly a quarter of part-time workers said they were less comfortable with their debt, compared with 14% of full-time workers.
  • Among parents, 29% said they were more comfortable with their debt, compared with 21% of non-parents.

Highlights:

  • Americans identifying as white were twice as likely to say their net worth was higher today than those identifying as Hispanic.
  • People nearing retirement age (50-64) were more than twice as likely as people in the youngest age group (18-29) to say their net worth was lower.
  • Among people living in rural communities, 21% said their net worth was lower today, compared with 17% of people living in urban areas.

Highlights:

  • Confidence in overall financial situation improved with age. Among the youngest age group in the survey (ages 18-29), 40% said their situation was better, compared with 11% of those who are retirement age (65 and older).
  • Among Republicans, 27% said their situation was worse today, compared with 15% of Democrats.
  • 34% of people living in urban areas said their financial situation was better, compared with 20% of people in rural areas.

What's the status of your personal finances? Give yourself a checkup with a free credit score at myBankrate.

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

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