Christmas spending lower for 26% of Americans

Christmas spending was lower than expected for 26% of American consumers and higher for only 14%, while 57% spent approximately what they had expected.

The data comes from a report published by Bankrate.com.

The lower spending was observed through all age groups and most socioeconomic levels, the authors noted. Only those earning at least $75,000 per year tended to spend more than they had planned to during the last holiday season.

However, according to Bankrate.com’s latest Financial Security Index results, consumers’ finances tell a more promising story. In January 2014 the Index reached 102.6, a 7-month high. Anything above 100 points to better financial security compared to the previous year.

Consumers’ comfort levels up

The Financial Security Index shows significant improvements in consumers’ comfort levels and debt and how they perceived their overall financial situations.

Greg McBride, CFA, Bankrate.com’s senior financial analyst, said:

“The U.S. economy has definitely carried some momentum into 2014, but it’s still a slow-growth economy with high unemployment and stagnant household income.”

“Consider that the economy has hit a rough patch each year of the recovery, usually in the first half of the year, and has underperformed the Fed’s estimates year-in and year-out. I expect similar results in 2014.”

In comparison to 24 months ago, consumers are experiencing a sense of improvement in four out of five of the Index’s five components:

  • debt
  • overall financial situation
  • job security, and
  • net worth.

As far as the fifth component is concerned – savings – feelings are still negative “but improving”, the authors wrote.

Savings sentiment improving slowly, but still negative

Since polling started in December 2010, January reading on savings has been the lowest. For every three people who report negative feelings regarding savings, two have positive feelings.

Seniors, people aged sixty-five years or more, are the most likely age group to view their financial situation as being worse today compared to January 2013.

The majority of people with household incomes below $30,000 per year, the lowest-income households, report that their overall financial situation today has deteriorated.

Respondents with higher academic qualifications were more likely to have better feelings about their financial situation compared to other groups.

College graduates reported feeling better 37% of the time compared to just 23% of those with a high school qualification or less.

The survey was carried out by Princeton Research Associates.

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