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Financial Planning > Tax Planning

Americans’ Personal Financial Satisfaction Has Never Been Higher: AICPA

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The average American started the summer feeling a strong sense of financial well-being, the American Institute of CPAs reported Thursday.

The AICPA’s index of personal financial satisfaction climbed to a new high of 27.7 in the second quarter, a 2.6% increase from the first quarter.

A record number of job openings and a rebounded stock market buoyed personal financial satisfaction even as interest rates rose, according to the report.

(Related: Americans Have Been Saving Much More Than Thought, New Data Show)

The PFSi is calculated as the Personal Financial Pleasure Index minus the Personal Financial Pain Index, with readings above zero indicating that Americans are feeling more financial pleasure than pain.

“A great job market is the perfect time for Americans to shore up their emergency fund, double check they’re making the most of their work benefits, and even consider shopping around to see if there is a better financial opportunity in their field,” Kelley Long, member of the AICPA’s consumer financial education advocates, said in a statement.

“In these times of increased market volatility, the best thing to do is stay the course, unless you’re near retirement. If that’s the case, then now is a great time to rebalance your portfolio to ensure you have adequate cash set aside, so that when the market does inevitably take a downturn, your retirement plans aren’t affected.”

Pleasure Index

The pleasure index, which comprises four equally weighted factors, each of which measures the growth of assets and opportunities, increased by 4% from the first quarter to an all-time high of 72.2.

The job openings per capita factor showed the most improvement, increasing 5.9 points to a new record of 76. The report noted that in May, the most American workers in 17 years left their jobs, indicating that more people appeared confident they could find a new job elsewhere, possibly at higher pay.

The PFS 750 Market Index rebounded from its first-quarter decline, rising 4.3 points to 89, a record high. This proprietary stock index comprises the 750 biggest companies trading on the U.S. market, adjusted for inflation and per capita. It remained the leading contributor to the pleasure index and to the PFSi overall.

The outlook index, which captures the expectations of CPA executives in the year ahead for their companies and the U.S. economy, dropped 1.8 points to 54.2 in the second quarter. By region, organization optimism was strongest in the South, but decreased everywhere else with the largest decline in the Northeast.

The real home equity per capita index, at 68, increased by 1.2%, but is still 13.2% below its 2006 all-time high. The changes in value have been due to increases in the market value of real estate exceeding increases in mortgages outstanding, the report said.

Pain Index

The pain index measured 44.5 in the second quarter, a 4.9% increase from the January-to-March period.

Inflation edged out taxes — after eight consecutive quarters in the top spot — as the leading contributor to the pain index. According to the report, it is the most volatile factor contributing to the PFSi, and with absolute levels low by historical standards, small changes result in big percentage gains.

In the second quarter, the inflation measure shot up by 34.5% to 54.

“With inflation surging to a six-year high, this could signal the end of its historical lows,” Michael Velazquez, a member of the AICPA’s personal financial planning executive committee, said in the statement.

“Given inflation’s unpredictability, Americans should revisit the inflation assumptions used in their financial plans, especially if in, or close to, retirement.”

The report said the tax component of the pain index was particularly important when measuring financial satisfaction because it is a distinct factor that many Americans recognize. The April-to-June quarter was the second one to reflect the effect of the tax overhaul.

Even though the pain from taxes fell by 2.5% from the first quarter, this factor is only 0.9% below the year-ago level, before the new tax came into effect.

The AICPA noted that the personal taxes value uses information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics on income tax, tax on realized net capital gains and taxes on personal property.


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