Lucas intro: With a deal to avert the fiscal cliff in early January, Americans' feelings of financial security improved this month. Here with details is Greg McBride, senior financial analyst at Bankrate.com. Greg, what did we see this month?
Greg: Lucas, Bankrate.com's Financial Security Index jumped three points to 98.6 in January. This is the biggest increase in 13 months. While this is still lower than where we were back in October, the increase did coincide with the deal to avert the fiscal cliff.
Lucas: Where specifically did we see improvement? And do you foresee continued improvement in the months ahead?
Greg: Americans' sentiment regarding their job security, savings, net worth, and overall financial situation all posted increases over the past month. Job security and net worth are both at levels indicating improvement compared to one year ago. But with a tough debt ceiling debate, wrangling over spending cuts, and the specter of a credit rating downgrade if those spending cuts don't go far enough, there is likely to be plenty of cause for concern among consumers in the weeks and months ahead, so no, I don't see it lasting.
Lucas: Speaking of uncertainty, how did consumers' holiday spending compare to what they had intended or expected?
Greg: 28% of Americans say they spent less than expected this holiday season, while just 16% -- about 1-in-6 -- spent more than expected. The uncertainty of the fiscal cliff and the overall economic situation don't appear to have played a huge role in this as the results were consistent with what we've seen in each of the previous 2 years.
Lucas close: Thank you, Greg. For more information on this month's Financial Security Index, just log onto Bankrate.com. I'm Lucas Wysocki.