The readings from the last few months mark a big turnaround, says Greg McBride, CFA, senior financial analyst for Bankrate.
"We've now had five months in a row where people have said their financial security has improved relative to a year ago," McBride says, adding that in the history of the index, going back to late 2010, Bankrate had previously seen no more than two consecutive months of improvement.
Increased optimism is also more broad-based than before. While Americans earning more than $75,000 per year had long reported improving financial conditions, that sense of economic well-being is now filtering down into the middle class earning $50,000 to $75,000 per year, McBride says. In that group, 87 percent reported that their overall financial situation was the same or better, versus just 13 percent who said it was worse.
Overall, the numbers of people feeling better off outnumbered those feeling worse off in four of the five areas surveyed for the index, including net worth, job security, debt and overall financial situation.
The only area where Americans haven't shown substantial improvement involves their level of savings.
That has always been the weakest link in financial security, McBride says. "That continues to be the case. In the two and a half years we've been doing this poll, people have, month in and month out, pointed to savings as a real sore spot."