Financial Literacy - Growing your bottom line
Americans have faith in the stock market

"No one has a crystal ball, of course, that the economy will get worse over the next year. And I think more people will feel it and this level of optimism might decline," she says.

View on home economics even rosier

At the individual level, fortunes could take a turn for the worse in the coming year, if you believe media reports.

Americans don't see it that way, though. When asked to predict how their own financial picture might change in the coming year, only 13 percent said that they will get worse or much worse, compared to the 36 percent who had a gloomy forecast for the economy as a whole.

All told, 86 percent of Americans believe that their own personal finances will remain about the same or get even better.

"That is the optimism of the specific. It reminds me of those polls that say that people think Congress is doing a lousy job, but their own individual representatives are doing great a job," says Weston.

"It's the same as everyone thinking that they are better-than-average drivers. It doesn't hold up, but it's the way we perceive the world," she says.

Biggest obstacles to getting ahead

No matter how Americans may perceive their future prospects, they are feeling the pinch of rising costs for basic goods and services. Nearly a third said this factor alone is most responsible for impeding their fiscal growth.

Not surprising, says McBride.


"The Consumer Price Index does not tell the whole picture on inflation -- it is inflation of staples and everyday purchases that consumers are feeling, and I'm not talking about gas prices. A walk through the grocery store is an excellent example of how prices have increased," he says.

Nearly a quarter of Americans said their biggest financial impediment is inadequate income.

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