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US Consumers and the Economic Outlook Consumer Report

Everything you need to make the right decisions

Providing the most comprehensive and up-to-date information and analysis of the Consumers and the Economic Outlook Q1: Defining Financial Success, and the behaviours, preferences and habits of the consumer.

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What are the key challenges facing the industry? Who is the consumer and what do they want? Where are the opportunities, where are the risks and what lies ahead?

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Regardless of the time of the year, consumers’ financial outlook is relatively healthy. They may feel slightly more optimistic going into the holiday spending season, and then consequently feel slightly less optimistic at the beginning of the following year after all their expenses have been tallied. Similar to the push for physical wellbeing at the New Year, financial services companies can promote messaging with financial wellbeing in mind – understanding budgeting, proactive account management, and an annual assessment of financial accounts are all ideas to which consumers may be receptive.

Expert analysis from a specialist in the field

Written by Jennifer White Boehm, a leading analyst in the Financial Services sector, her extensive knowledge delivers in-depth commentary and analysis to highlight current trends and add expert context to the numbers.

The US economy continues its slow upward trajectory, even as discussion of tariffs and trade discussions cause the stock market to fluctuate a great deal. US unemployment – already at extremely low levels – decreased further in October of 2018, while labor force participation remained steady. Despite a slight dip, consumer confidence remains quite high. Consumers who consider their finances to be healthy continue to have faith in the economy, thereby potentially increasing their spending. Jennifer White Boehm
Associate Director - Financial Services

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Table of contents

  1. Executive Summary

    • Overview
      • When it comes to financial success, everything is important
        • Gender affects goal-setting
          • Financial situation dictates willingness to sacrifice
          • State of the Economy

            • Economic overview
              • Figure 1: Key economic indicators, November 2018
            • Consumer confidence
              • Figure 2: Consumer confidence, January 2008-November 2018
            • Un- and underemployment
              • Figure 3: Un- and underemployment, January 2008-October 2018
            • Disposable personal income
              • Figure 4: Disposable personal income change from previous period, January 2008-October 2018
            • Personal Saving Rate
              • Figure 5: Personal saving rate, January 2008-October 2018
            • Homeownership rate
              • Figure 6: Homeownership rate for the United States, January 2008-Q3 2018
          • Current Financial Situation

            • Majority of US consumers consider their finances to be healthy/OK
              • Figure 7: Current financial situation, November 2018
            • Consumers are slightly more optimistic at year’s end
              • Figure 8: Current financial situation, Q1 2017-Q4 2018
          • Definition of Financial Success

            • Consumers have multiple financial priorities
              • Figure 9: Definition of financial success, November 2018
            • Those with healthy finances concentrate on bill payment, savings
              • Figure 10: Definition of financial success, by financial outlook, November 2018
            • Women more likely to have multidimensional financial goals
              • Figure 11: Definition of financial success, by gender, November 2018
              • Figure 12: Definition of financial success, by gender and age, November 2018
            • Men significantly more likely to ask for a raise to meet financial goals
              • Figure 13: Willingness to ask for a raise to meet financial goals, November 2018
          • Obstacles to Financial Goals

            • Salary is considered the main obstacle to meeting financial goals
              • Figure 14: Obstacles to financial success, salary vs expenses, November 2018
            • Consumers with healthy finances not as troubled by obstacles
              • Figure 15: Obstacles to financial success, by financial outlook, November 2018
              • Figure 16: PayPal Mastercard direct mail piece, December 2018
            • Age more likely to dictate opinion on financial obstacles
              • Figure 17: Top obstacles to financial success, by age, November 2018
          • Reaching Financial Goals

            • Consumers more willing to cut back than change spending habits
              • Dining out, daily treats are first sacrifices in order to meet financial goals
                • Figure 18: Cutting back to meet financial goals, November 2018
              • Consumers with tighter budgets more focused on cost savings
                • Figure 19: Change in spending to meet financial goals, by financial outlook, November 2018
              • Women more willing than men to cut back
                • Figure 20: Willingness to cut back, by age and gender, November 2018
            • Appendix – Data Sources and Abbreviations

              • Data sources
                • Consumer survey data
                  • Direct marketing creative
                    • Abbreviations and terms
                      • Abbreviations