December is usually a time of merriment and cheer, but Americans are not in a festive mood when they think about money, according to this month's Financial Security Index.
For the second consecutive month, sentiment has shifted further into negative territory. All five components of financial security -- job security, savings, debt, net worth and overall financial situation -- slipped from last month. The five components reveal deterioration of personal finances when respondents compare them to one year ago.
"Consumers are less comfortable with their savings than one year ago by a margin of more than 3 to 1, the widest margin since November 2011," says Greg McBride, CFA, Bankrate's senior financial analyst. Consumer comfort with debt levels also turned negative in each of the past two months, he says, though the opposite was true for more than half the year.
Overall, Bankrate's Financial Security Index fell to a 2012 low of 95.6. A reading of 100 is neutral, so December's reading indicates diminishing feelings of financial security versus a year ago. During the summer, the index tiptoed slightly above 100, but it has yet to make big strides into positive territory.
For this month's "wild card" question, consumers were asked whether concerns about the so-called fiscal cliff caused them to cut back on personal spending. Sheyna Steiner's story, "'Fiscal cliff' hangs over consumer spending," reveals that worries about the fiscal cliff do impact spending for a significant number of people and explains how this might impact the economy.
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.