Middle-income America hasn't been this upbeat in years
The days might still be short and gray in much of the country, but when it comes to money and finances, Americans today have a sunnier outlook than we have in a long time.
A new Gallup survey on how Americans feel about our standard of living hit the study’s highest-ever level since the organization began tracking the metric seven years ago.
Every month, Gallup asks Americans if they’re satisfied with their standard of living and if they think that standard is going up or down, then calculates the answers into a single-number index. In December, that number was at 50 — an all-time high. By comparison, the index was at 14 back in October and November of 2008 when the Great Recession was at its worst.
In another all-time high, 81% of respondents say they’re satisfied with their current standard of living, a jump of 12 points since hitting a recession-era low in late 2008.
And we’re even more optimistic about the future. Today, Gallup finds more than six in 10 Americans say it’s “getting better” when asked about their standard of living — the highest-ever recorded in response to this question, and almost double the one-third of Americans who selected this answer back in October 2008, a record low.
“People’s outlook for their standard of living going forward has improved much more than their current satisfaction with it,” Gallup says.
In a second recent survey, the America Saves campaign finds that our collective willingness and ability to save is significantly higher than it was last year immediately after the holidays.
“[This] suggests that Americans are now feeling better about their financial condition,” Stephen Brobeck, a founder of America Saves and executive director of the Consumer Federation of America (the nonprofit behind America Saves), said in a statement.
The America Saves data show this greater interest in and ability to save is driven primarily by households with an annual income of less than $75,000.
“Our new data suggest that low- and middle-class Americans are feeling more optimistic about their financial situation now than a year ago,” Brobeck says.
In its analysis, Gallup suggests that freer spending, perhaps helped along by low gas prices, could be contributing to our collective optimism. The America Saves data offers clues that this could be the case: Compared to a year ago, the income bracket reporting the biggest jump in how effectively they’re able to save money is households earning less than $25,000.
“Instead of being distracted by heavy holiday spending and debts, they are . . . interested and active saving today,” Brobeck says.