Most Americans feel well-equipped to make important financial decisions, but significant numbers worry they are making less progress than they should toward reaching financial goals, according to the latest quarterly Allstate/National Journal Heartland Monitor Poll.
Americans were also pessimistic about the economy, and had limited confidence in most major institutions, the poll found.
The Obama presidency hit a low-water mark in the Heartland Monitor Poll series: just 23% of Americans believed the country was headed in the right direction.
The quarterly Allstate/National Journal Heartland Monitor Polls explore Americans' personal financial experiences, their views on the financial system and their opinion of how the federal government’s budget situation affects their personal finances.
The most recent poll was conducted by FTI Consulting Nov. 2–6 among 1,000 American adults age 18 and older reached via landline and cell phone.
Seventy-three percent of respondents across the political spectrum believed the recent federal government shutdown and national debt had negatively affected them on a personal level.
Among those feeling personally affected, 33% believed the main result would be tax hikes, and 26% felt it would mean fewer opportunities for them to get jobs and pay increases.
Although 58% of respondents believed participating in the financial system was the safest and most reliable way to secure their families’ financial future, a substantial 35% worried that the system was too volatile, complicated and unreliable to provide a secure future.
They also thought the economy was struggling, with more than half saying the U.S. remained in recession, and few believing economic improvements were on the horizon.
At the same time, 89% of Americans said they were confident they understood information about important financial decisions. As well, healthy majorities were confident they had the information they needed to buy a home, plan their retirement and set up an inheritance.
The Personal and the Political
In evaluating their personal situation, many Americans said they were falling behind on key financial milestones, including saving for retirement, contributing to a 401(k) or IRA, maintaining an emergency savings fund, estate planning and investing in the stock market.
However, a majority of respondents believed they were either on track or ahead in paying off debt. A majority also said they were sticking to a monthly budget.
Forty-seven percent of respondents said they sought “informal” information on managing their personal finances from friends or family members. Only 33% turned to a professional financial advisor, 24% sought advice from a banker at a branch location and 17% turned to a credit union.
President Barack Obama's job approval slipped to 38%, a new low for his presidency in the Allstate/National Journal poll. His approval rating was 29% among independents, 29% among whites and 52% among Hispanics. Seventy-six percent of Democrats and an equal percentage of African-Americans remained supportive, though at reduced levels.
In addition, just 9% of Americans approved of the job Congress was doing, a 12-point drop from one year ago.
Economic and personal financial indicators were also at or near their low point. Eleven percent of respondents thought the economy was in “excellent” or “good” shape, while 45% thought it was in “fair” shape and 44% considered it in “poor” shape.
Thirty-six percent of respondents believed the economy would get worse over the next 12 months, while 29% thought it would improve. Still, 39% expected their own situation to improve over the next year, and only 15% believed theirs would become worse.
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