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Consumers and the Economic Outlook - US - February 2015

“Consumers are optimistic about their financial situation but still skeptical of the future of the economy. Their perspective seems to reflect a cognitive dissonance considering the economic conditions do impact their personal finances. This can be their strategy to cope with the challenging reality of their financial situation; believing they are doing great financially helps them keep their hopes alive believing that their situation will get better regardless of its status.”
– Monica Staco, Financial Services Manager

Some questions answered in this report include:

  • How are consumers’ financial and economic outlooks changing? 
  • Are consumers’ financial behaviors changing?

The economy is presenting signs of a comeback with lower unemployment rate, increase in wages, and decreases in gas prices. However, while consumers are confident about the future of their own financial situations, they continue to be skeptical about the general economy. This report reviews key measurements to assess the economy and consumers’ changes from a year ago, the factors contributing to consumers’ economic outlook, and the financial status of various groups of consumers who show differences in their perspectives, including women, Millennials, and homeowners.

Consumers are starting to experience the re-emergence of a stronger economy. However, they still hold on to the memory of the impact of the recession and are looking for more long-term consistent improvement to trust the stability of the economy. If in 2015 economic and financial conditions continue to grow, consumers will not hesitate to increase their discretionary spending. They are still focused on saving and clearing their debt, so additional spending may not be a high financial priority in 2015. FSI should encourage consumers to discuss their long-term goals to help them create a realistic plan, taking into account potential ups and downs of the economy. Such planning can accommodate consumers in their financial thought process and guide their spending and saving behaviors.

 

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Table of contents

  1. Scope and Themes

    • What you need to know
      • Data sources
        • Consumer survey data
          • Direct marketing creative
            • Abbreviations and terms
              • Abbreviations
                • Terms
                • Executive Summary

                    • The market
                      • The consumer
                        • Consumers are optimistic about their own financial situation
                          • Consumers’ economic outlook is still grim
                            • Women are increasingly more involved in their household’s finances
                              • Millennials are still struggling to manage their finances
                                • Parents are conscious of their savings
                                  • High-income households could use financial guidance
                                    • Renters are financially vulnerable
                                      • What we think
                                      • Issues and Insights

                                          • How are consumers’ financial and economic outlooks changing?
                                            • The issues
                                              • The implications
                                                • Are consumers’ financial behaviors changing?
                                                  • The issues
                                                    • The implications
                                                    • Trend Application

                                                        • Trend: Prepare for the Worst
                                                          • Trend: Who Are the Joneses?
                                                          • Market Drivers

                                                            • Key points
                                                              • Gross domestic product (GDP) is stable
                                                                • Figure 1: US GDP quarterly growth rate, Q1 2013-Q3 2014
                                                              • Unemployment rate continues to decrease
                                                                • Figure 2: Unemployment rate and underemployment, January 2013-December 2014
                                                              • Consumer confidence is strong
                                                                • Figure 3: Consumer confidence index, January 2013-December 2014
                                                              • Personal consumer income and expenditures
                                                                • Figure 4: US personal income, savings, and expenditures, Q1 2013-Q3 2014
                                                              • Impact of the decrease in gas prices
                                                                • Figure 5: Average price per gallon of gasoline, unleaded regular, January 2013-December 2014
                                                              • Consumers are spending more for food, housing, and healthcare
                                                                • Figure 6: Personal consumption expenditures for food, housing, health care, Q1 2012-Q3 2014
                                                            • Marketing Strategies

                                                              • Overview
                                                                • Theme: financial planning
                                                                  • Wells Fargo
                                                                    • Figure 7: Wells Fargo, mailing, 2014
                                                                  • USAA
                                                                    • Figure 8: USAA, mailing, 2014
                                                                  • Theme: college savings
                                                                    • Fidelity
                                                                      • Figure 9: Fidelity, email, 2014
                                                                    • Edward Jones
                                                                      • Figure 10: Edward Jones, mailing, 2014
                                                                  • Consumers’ Financial Sentiment

                                                                    • Key points
                                                                      • Consumers’ financial sentiment is unchanged
                                                                        • Figure 11: Current financial sentiment, July 2012-September 2014
                                                                      • Consumers show a glimmer of hope for their financial future
                                                                        • Figure 12: Personal financial outlook, July 2012-September 2014
                                                                      • Consumers are less optimistic about the future of the economy
                                                                          • Figure 13: Economic outlook, July 2012-September 2014
                                                                      • Consumers’ and Households’ Current Financial Health

                                                                        • Key points
                                                                          • Consumers are optimistic about their financial health
                                                                            • Figure 14: Household financial health, 2012-14
                                                                          • Millennials and Swing Generation are the most financially confident
                                                                            • Figure 15: Household financial health, by age, October 2014
                                                                          • Homeowners are strengthening their financial situation
                                                                            • Figure 16: Household financial health, by primary residence, October 2014
                                                                          • Higher-income households have a healthy financial situation
                                                                            • Figure 17: Household financial health, by household income, October 2014
                                                                        • Factors of Economic Success

                                                                          • Key points
                                                                            • Saving money is a key factor to economic success
                                                                              • Figure 18: Factors of economic success, by age, October 2014
                                                                            • Renters point to job stability as a factor of economic success
                                                                              • Figure 19: Factors of economic success, by primary residence, October 2014
                                                                          • Household Financial Decision Making

                                                                            • Key points
                                                                              • Women are contributing to their household financial decisions
                                                                                • Figure 20: Household financial decision maker, by gender, October 2014
                                                                              • Millennials are sole decision makers
                                                                                • Figure 21: Household financial decision maker, by age, October 2014
                                                                              • Average-income households have both partners share financial decisions
                                                                                • Figure 22: Household financial decision maker, by household income, October 2014
                                                                            • Household Borrowing Behaviors

                                                                              • Key points
                                                                                • Consumers are reducing their debt
                                                                                  • Figure 23: Credit cards status, 2013-14
                                                                                • Financially healthy households carry very little debt
                                                                                  • Figure 24: Credit cards and household loans status, by current financial health, October 2014
                                                                                • Millennials are still challenged by debt
                                                                                  • Figure 25: Credit cards and household loans status, by age, October 2014
                                                                                • High income earners are not immune to debt
                                                                                  • Figure 26: Credit cards and household loans status, by household income, October 2014
                                                                              • Household Savings Behaviors

                                                                                • Key points
                                                                                  • Consumers are increasing their savings
                                                                                    • Figure 27: Household savings status, 2013-14
                                                                                  • Women are not saving enough
                                                                                    • Figure 28: Household savings status, by gender, October 2014
                                                                                  • Renters are more financially vulnerable than homeowners
                                                                                    • Figure 29: Household savings status, by primary residence, October 2014
                                                                                • Financial and Economic Predictions

                                                                                  • Key points
                                                                                    • Consumers are still skeptical about the economy
                                                                                      • Figure 30: Household financial and economic predictions, 2013-14
                                                                                    • Millennials demonstrate the most optimism
                                                                                      • Figure 31: Household financial and economic predictions, by age, October 2014
                                                                                  • Households’ Future Financial Priorities

                                                                                    • Key points
                                                                                      • Consumers plan on keeping their debt low and increasing their savings
                                                                                        • Figure 32: Future financial priorities, Any importance (very and somewhat important), 2013-14
                                                                                      • Women are building their emergency funds
                                                                                        • Figure 33: Future financial priorities – Any importance (very and somewhat important), by gender, October 2014
                                                                                      • Parents plan to increase their retirement contributions
                                                                                        • Figure 34: Retirement contribution – CHAID – Tree output, October 2014
                                                                                        • Figure 35: Future financial priorities – Any importance (very and somewhat important) – CHAID – Table output, October 2014
                                                                                      • Millennial parents prioritize educational savings
                                                                                        • Figure 36: Educational savings– CHAID – Tree output, October 2014
                                                                                        • Figure 37: Future financial priorities – Any importance (very and somewhat important) – CHAID – Table output, October 2014
                                                                                      • High-income households are not eliminating their credit card debt
                                                                                        • Figure 38: Future financial priorities – Any importance (very and somewhat important), by household income, October 2014
                                                                                    • Appendix – Other Useful Consumer Tables

                                                                                      • Current financial sentiment
                                                                                        • Figure 39: Current financial sentiment, by gender, August 2013-September 2014
                                                                                        • Figure 40: Current financial sentiment, by age, August 2013-September 2014
                                                                                        • Figure 41: Current financial sentiment, by race/Hispanic origin, August 2013-September 2014
                                                                                        • Figure 42: Current financial sentiment, by household income, August 2013-September 2014
                                                                                        • Figure 43: Current financial sentiment, by race and age, August 2013-September 2014
                                                                                        • Figure 44: Current financial sentiment, by Hispanic origin and age, August 2013-September 2014
                                                                                      • Personal financial outlook
                                                                                        • Figure 45: Personal financial outlook, by gender, August 2013-September 2014
                                                                                        • Figure 46: Personal financial outlook, by age, August 2013-September 2014
                                                                                        • Figure 47: Personal financial outlook, by race/Hispanic origin, August 2013-September 2014
                                                                                        • Figure 48: Personal financial outlook, by household income, August 2013-September 2014
                                                                                        • Figure 49: Personal financial outlook, by race and age, August 2013-September 2014
                                                                                        • Figure 50: Personal financial outlook, by Hispanic origin and age, August 2013-September 2014
                                                                                      • Economic outlook
                                                                                        • Figure 51: Economic outlook, by gender, August 2013-September 2014
                                                                                        • Figure 52: Economic outlook, by age, August 2013-September 2014
                                                                                        • Figure 53: Economic outlook, by race/Hispanic origin, August 2013-September 2014
                                                                                        • Figure 54: Economic outlook, by household income, August 2013-September 2014
                                                                                        • Figure 55: Economic outlook, by race and age, August 2013-September 2014
                                                                                        • Figure 56: Economic outlook, by Hispanic origin and age, August 2013-September 2014
                                                                                      • Financial sentiment and economic outlook trend analysis
                                                                                        • Figure 57: Current financial sentiment, July 2012-September 2014
                                                                                        • Figure 58: Personal financial outlook, July 2012-September 2014
                                                                                        • Figure 59: Economic outlook, July 2012-September 2014
                                                                                      • Current financial health
                                                                                        • Figure 60: Household financial health, by gender, October 2014
                                                                                        • Figure 61: Household financial health, by age, October 2014
                                                                                        • Figure 62: Household financial health, by race/Hispanic origin, October 2014
                                                                                        • Figure 63: Household financial health, by household income, October 2014
                                                                                        • Figure 64: Household financial health, by presence of children in household, October 2014
                                                                                        • Figure 65: Household financial status, by financial decision maker, October 2014
                                                                                      • Economic success
                                                                                        • Figure 66: Factors of economic success, by gender, October 2014
                                                                                        • Figure 67: Factors of economic success, by age, October 2014
                                                                                        • Figure 68: Factors of economic success, by race/Hispanic origin, October 2014
                                                                                        • Figure 69: Factors of economic success, by household income, October 2014
                                                                                        • Figure 70: Factors of economic success, by primary residence, October 2014
                                                                                        • Figure 71: Factors of economic success, by current financial situation, October 2014
                                                                                        • Figure 72: Factors of economic success, by financial decision maker, October 2014
                                                                                      • Household financial decision maker
                                                                                        • Figure 73: Household financial decision maker, by gender, October 2014
                                                                                        • Figure 74: Household financial decision maker, by age, October 2014
                                                                                        • Figure 75: Household financial decision maker, by race/Hispanic origin, October 2014
                                                                                        • Figure 76: Household financial decision maker, by household income, October 2014
                                                                                        • Figure 77: Household financial decision maker, by presence of children in household, October 2014
                                                                                      • Debt status
                                                                                        • Figure 78: Credit cards status, by gender, October 2014
                                                                                        • Figure 79: Credit cards status, by age, October 2014
                                                                                        • Figure 80: Credit cards status, by race/Hispanic origin, October 2014
                                                                                        • Figure 81: Credit cards status, by household income, October 2014
                                                                                        • Figure 82: Credit cards status, by presence of children in household, October 2014
                                                                                        • Figure 83: Credit cards status, by current financial situation, October 2014
                                                                                        • Figure 84: Credit cards status, by financial decision maker, October 2014
                                                                                        • Figure 85: Household loans status, by gender, October 2014
                                                                                        • Figure 86: Household loans status, by age, October 2014
                                                                                        • Figure 87: Household loans status, by race/Hispanic origin, October 2014
                                                                                        • Figure 88: Household loans status, by household income, October 2014
                                                                                        • Figure 89: Household loans status, by presence of children in household, October 2014
                                                                                        • Figure 90: Household loans status, by current financial situation, October 2014
                                                                                        • Figure 91: Household loans status, by financial decision maker, October 2014
                                                                                      • Saving status
                                                                                        • Figure 92: Household savings status, by gender, October 2014
                                                                                        • Figure 93: Household savings status, by age, October 2014
                                                                                        • Figure 94: Household savings status, by race/Hispanic origin, October 2014
                                                                                        • Figure 95: Household savings status, by household income, October 2014
                                                                                        • Figure 96: Household savings status, by presence of children in household, October 2014
                                                                                        • Figure 97: Household savings status, by current financial situation, October 2014
                                                                                        • Figure 98: Household savings status, by financial decision maker, October 2014
                                                                                      • Future financial priorities – Important
                                                                                        • Figure 99: Future financial priorities – Any importance, by gender, October 2014
                                                                                        • Figure 100: Future financial priorities – Any importance, by age, October 2014
                                                                                        • Figure 101: Future financial priorities – Any importance, by race/Hispanic origin, October 2014
                                                                                        • Figure 102: Future financial priorities – Any importance, by household income, October 2014
                                                                                        • Figure 103: Future financial priorities – Any importance, by presence of children in household, October 2014
                                                                                        • Figure 104: Future financial priorities – Any importance, by current financial situation, October 2014
                                                                                        • Figure 105: Future financial priorities – Any importance, by financial decision maker, October 2014
                                                                                      • Future financial priorities – Unimportant
                                                                                        • Figure 106: Future financial priorities – Any unimportance, by gender, October 2014
                                                                                        • Figure 107: Future financial priorities – Any unimportance, by age, October 2014
                                                                                        • Figure 108: Future financial priorities – Any unimportance, by race/Hispanic origin, October 2014
                                                                                        • Figure 109: Future financial priorities – Any unimportance, by household income, October 2014
                                                                                        • Figure 110: Future financial priorities – Any unimportance, by current financial situation, October 2014
                                                                                        • Figure 111: Future financial priorities – Any unimportance, by financial decision maker, October 2014
                                                                                      • Financial predictions
                                                                                        • Figure 112: Household financial predictions, by gender, October 2014
                                                                                        • Figure 113: Household financial predictions, by age, October 2014
                                                                                        • Figure 114: Household financial predictions, by race/Hispanic origin, October 2014
                                                                                        • Figure 115: Household financial predictions, by household income, October 2014
                                                                                        • Figure 116: Household financial predictions, by presence of children in household, October 2014
                                                                                        • Figure 117: Household financial predictions, by current financial situation, October 2014
                                                                                        • Figure 118: Household financial predictions, by financial decision maker, October 2014
                                                                                        • Figure 119: Economic predictions, by gender, October 2014
                                                                                        • Figure 120: Economic predictions, by age, October 2014
                                                                                        • Figure 121: Economic predictions, by race/Hispanic origin, October 2014
                                                                                        • Figure 122: Economic predictions, by household income, October 2014
                                                                                        • Figure 123: Economic predictions, by presence of children in household, October 2014
                                                                                        • Figure 124: Economic predictions, by current financial situation, October 2014
                                                                                        • Figure 125: Economic predictions, by financial decision maker, October 2014
                                                                                      • Homeowners
                                                                                        • Figure 126: Household financial health, by primary residence, October 2014
                                                                                        • Figure 127: Household financial decision maker, by primary residence, October 2014
                                                                                        • Figure 128: Credit cards status, by primary residence, October 2014
                                                                                        • Figure 129: Household savings status, by primary residence, October 2014
                                                                                        • Figure 130: Future financial priorities – Any unimportance, by primary residence, October 2014
                                                                                        • Figure 131: Economic predictions, by primary residence, October 2014
                                                                                      • Homeowners’ future goals
                                                                                        • Figure 132: Homeowners future goals, by gender, October 2014
                                                                                        • Figure 133: Homeowners future goals, by age, October 2014
                                                                                        • Figure 134: Homeowners future goals, by race/Hispanic origin, October 2014
                                                                                        • Figure 135: Homeowners future goals, by household income, October 2014
                                                                                        • Figure 136: Homeowners future goals, by presence of children in household, October 2014
                                                                                        • Figure 137: Homeowners future goals, by current financial situation, October 2014
                                                                                        • Figure 138: Homeowners future goals, by financial decision maker, October 2014
                                                                                      • Personal financial attitudes
                                                                                        • Figure 139: Personal-opinions/attitudes, opinions, interests, by gender, August 2013-September 2014
                                                                                        • Figure 140: Personal-opinions/attitudes, opinions, interests, by age, August 2013-September 2014
                                                                                        • Figure 141: Personal-opinions/attitudes, opinions, interests, by race/Hispanic origin, August 2013-September 2014
                                                                                        • Figure 142: Personal-opinions/attitudes, opinions, interests, by household income, August 2013-September 2014
                                                                                        • Figure 143: Personal-opinions/attitudes, opinions, interests, by race and age, August 2013-September 2014
                                                                                        • Figure 144: Personal-opinions/attitudes, opinions, interests, by Hispanic origin and age, August 2013-September 2014
                                                                                        • Figure 145: Personal-opinions/personal finances, by gender, August 2013-September 2014
                                                                                        • Figure 146: Personal-opinions/personal finances, by age, August 2013-September 2014
                                                                                        • Figure 147: Personal-opinions/personal finances, by race/Hispanic origin, August 2013-September 2014
                                                                                        • Figure 148: Personal-opinions/personal finances, by household income, August 2013-September 2014
                                                                                        • Figure 149: Personal-opinions/personal finances, by race and age, August 2013-September 2014
                                                                                        • Figure 150: Personal-opinions/personal finances, by Hispanic origin and age, August 2013-September 2014
                                                                                    • Appendix: Trade Associations

                                                                                        • American Bankers Association (ABA)
                                                                                          • American Financial Services Association (AFSA)
                                                                                            • Consumer Bankers Association (CBA)
                                                                                              • Credit Union National Association
                                                                                                • Independent Community Bankers of America (ICBA)
                                                                                                  • Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA)
                                                                                                    • National Credit Union Association (NCUA)

                                                                                                    Companies Covered

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                                                                                                    Consumers and the Economic Outlook - US - February 2015

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