The December Financial Security Index released Tuesday by Bloomington, Ill.-based COUNTRY Financial found that although Americans are uncertain about their financial future in 2011, they are optimistic about their current situation. Currently, the Index stands at 64.1, a 0.3 point slip from the October Index.
Fifteen percent of respondents said their financial security is improving, up from 13% in October. The survey noted this is the largest number of people to express such confidence all year. Furthermore, 38% rated their financial security positively, up three points from October.
While respondents are generally optimistic about their current situation, the percentage of respondents who said they were able to save money in the last two months fell slightly from 45% in October to 44% in December. The decline is especially pronounced among 30-39-year-old respondents; 45% that age group said they set aside money for savings or investments, compared with 50% in October. The fall among 18-29-year-olds was not as severe, dropping five percentage points to 33%.
Keith Brannan, vice president of financial security planning for COUNTRY Financial, noted in a press release that one possible explanation for the slip in savings is holiday spending.
"With proper planning throughout the year, many can afford to spend during the holidays," he said. "It will be interesting, however, to see if people have learned from previous years and avoid the financial hangover that tends to come post-holiday."
Sixty-one percent of respondents between 18 and 29 years old said they were confident they'd be able to pay off debts, down from 65% two months ago. The percentage of older respondents who are confident they'll pay back debts fell as well, though less significantly – 74% said they could pay off debts as they come due in December, compared with 75% in October.
The survey found men are slightly more confident about 2011 than women; 32% said next year would be better for them financially than 2010, compared with 26% of women. The retirement confidence gap between women and men is widening. Half of women respondents said they were confident that they'd have a comfortable retirement, down three points from the October survey, while men are more optimistic than they were two months ago; 60% say they're confident they'll have a comfortable retirement, compared with 56% in October.