Middle-class Americans’ own assessment of financial security suggests they may be too optimistic, according to a new survey.
The new pulse survey from CUNA Mutual Group, a leading provider of lending, insurance, investment and financial technology solutions for credit unions, reveals a disconnect between middle-class aspirations and resources.
“Middle class” was defined as an annual income of $35,000 to $100,000.
The survey finds that Americans in this income group tend to feel positive about their prospects for upward mobility. For example, when asked to grade the ability of the middle class to achieve the American Dream, the average response was B-minus.
In addition, respondents’ assessment of their own financial security shows quite a bit of confidence. According to the survey, 62% say they feel somewhat or very confident about their personal financial situation, and nearly half (46%) believe it is very unlikely that they will miss a loan payment over the next one to two years.
However, the survey finds that this cautious optimism belies a more troubling financial picture. More than half of respondents are ill-equipped for an emergency, with 23% saying they have no emergency savings and 30% saying they only have one to three months’ worth.
“The middle class continues to experience stress from the long-term impacts of the 2008 recession,” said Steve Rick, chief economist at CUNA Mutual Group. “Markets may be rebounding and unemployment at historic lows, but we’re still seeing middle-class families struggle with sticky wages, inadequate liquidity, high debt, insufficient savings and difficulty building wealth. This population is among the most exposed to an eventual downturn.”
The survey finds that retirement is also a vulnerable spot.
Few survey respondents feel prepared for retirement, with only 28% saying they’ll be able to retire with financial confidence.
In fact, many seem to be more focused on short-term goals considered hallmarks of the American Dream: 38% say they feel they’ll be able to buy a new car in their lifetime, and 37% say they’ll be able to travel internationally.
“A vibrant middle class is essential to a healthy, functioning economy and nation,” Rick said in a statement. “But we’re seeing a troubling picture emerge as their ability to manage their finances in the near term is coming at the expense of the long term. No one can control the economic winds, but the financial industry can provide the resources the middle class needs to break out of the cycle of economic insecurity.”
The 2018 CUNA Mutual Group survey assessed 1,258 U.S. adults ages 18 or older in August.
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