Financial Security Index falls back after high start

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It seems like we are all coming down from the holiday cheer and losing that New Year’s pep in our step. This month, the Financial Security Index dropped to 96.8 from 98.6, surrendering most of the improvement seen in January. Financial Security Index
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.

The decline from one month ago was especially pronounced among the highest-income households, with all five components — savings, job security, net worth, debt and overall financial situation — declining for those with income of $75,000 a year or more.

Another interesting thing to note in this month’s survey is that since 2011, we found that the amount of Americans who have more money in emergency savings than credit card debt is virtually unchanged at 55 percent. Last year, the percentage stood at 54 percent, and in 2011, it stood at 52 percent. With a margin of error at 3.5 percent, we haven’t been able to move that needle in two years.

“Consumers may be deleveraging, but the proportion of people with more emergency savings than credit card debt hasn’t changed much,” says Greg McBride, CFA, senior financial analyst at Bankrate.

Although we haven’t been able to make an increase in our savings, it seems there is one bright spot in this month’s survey — net worth. Thanks to rebounding home prices and the buoyant stock market, those feeling their net worth is higher compared to a year ago showed improvement, says McBride.

Let’s hope now that the groundhog hasn’t predicted six more weeks of winter that we can begin to thaw out and raise our financial well-being a bit next month.

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