Bankrate’s monthly survey measures how secure Americans feel about their personal finances compared with 12 months ago. From Jan. 2-5, 2014, telephone interviews (on landlines and cellphones) with 1,005 adults living in the continental U.S. were conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International. The results of Bankrate’s Financial Security Index have a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points. This month, the index rose to 102.6, up 2.2 points from December.
- Younger people were more likely to splurge: 18 percent of people between 18 and 29 spent more than expected, compared with 9 percent of those 65 years old and older.
- Big earners had trouble keeping to their holiday budget: 23 percent of those with at least a $75,000 income spent more than expected. That’s compared with only 11 percent of those who made $30,000 or less.
- Those with less education were more likely to be frugal: 30 percent of people with a high school diploma or less spent less than expected. Nineteen percent of those with a college degree spent less than expected.
- Those nearing retirement were the least secure. Among people age 50 to 64, 18 percent said they felt less secure compared with 6 percent of those between the ages of 18 and 29.
- Hispanics show a big diversity in job security. A greater portion of Hispanics were either more secure (34 percent) or less secure (20 percent) than those who felt their situation hadn’t changed (46 percent).
- Less education meant less security. Among respondents who earned a high school diploma or less, 18 percent were more insecure about their job. That compares with 10 percent for those who’d attended college.
- Younger respondents felt the best about their savings. Thirty percent of those between age 18 and 29 said they were more comfortable with the size of their nest egg. Only 19 percent of 30- to 49-year-olds felt the same.
- More educated meant more confidence. Thirty percent of college graduates were more comfortable with their savings, compared with 15 percent for those who didn’t attend college.
- More money meant more confidence. Thirty-one percent of those with an income of $75,000 or more were more comfortable with their savings, compared with 13 percent of those who earn $30,000 or less.
- Democrats were more comfortable with their debt (30 percent) than Republicans or Independents (22 percent each).
- Middle class means more comfortable. Thirty-eight percent of those with an income of $50,000 to $74,999 were more comfortable with their debt. That compares with 18 percent for those with incomes of $30,000 or less.
- Thirty percent of respondents aged between 18 and 29 were more comfortable with their debt. That compares with 18 percent for those 65 years or older.
- College grads were more likely to see an increase in net worth. Forty-two percent of graduates said they had a higher net worth, compared with 16 percent of those with a high school degree or less.
- Lower wage earners were the most likely to see a decline in net worth.
- Men were more likely than women to note an increase in net worth.
- The top wage earners were the most bullish. Among those who earned $75,000 or more, 45 percent said they felt better about their financial situation, compared with 19 percent for those who earned $30,000 or less.
- Lower wage earners were more likely to feel worse today. Among those who earned $30,000 or less, 26 percent said they felt worse, compared with 10 percent for the highest wage earners.
- Higher-educated respondents were more likely to feel better about their financial situation than other groups. Those who graduated college said they felt better 37 percent of the time, compared with 23 percent for those with a high school degree or less.
Editor’s note: Percentages may not equal 100, due to rounding.
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.