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Gallup: Robust Economy Can't Ease Personal-Finance Anxiety

Gallup: Robust Economy Can't Ease Personal-Finance Anxiety

By    |   Wednesday, 17 July 2019 11:48 AM

Gallup has found that as the economy has improved during President Donald Trump's presidency, Americans' anxiety about most financial matters has not.

This includes the core middle class concerns of paying for normal healthcare, paying for children's college and paying for rent or mortgage.

Trump has repeatedly touted the U.S. economy as performing extremely well, with nearly full employment and over 3% growth in the economy.

Many political leaders anticipate the 2020 presidential election will revolve around this positive national economic picture for the voters.But there's always been a paradox with national economic success, as it means voters can afford to turn their attention to other issues, Gallup recently explained.

One such potential issue is Americans' personal financial insecurity. According to a recent Gallup poll, 40% of Americans say they are either running into debt or barely making ends meet. Personal financial anxiety is even greater among employed households when considering that only 25% of this group report they are saving enough for retirement. Almost as many admit they have saved nothing at all (18%).

Gallup's annual survey on personal finances, conducted each April, collects more specific data on American's personal financial concerns. This is done with a question asking whether they are "very worried," "moderately worried," "not too worried" or "not worried at all" about each of eight financial matters.

When people are "worried," they are, by definition, expressing a feeling of strong anxiety or unease. At the very least, worry signals fear of an anticipated threat. Ideally, politics is about concerned leaders proposing solutions to the problems troubling worried voters.

While the percentage of Americans rating the economy "only fair" or "poor" has dropped 27 points between the two April surveys in 2016 and 2019, most of their personal financial worries declined by only a few points.

Without the economy distracting them, Americans' financial worries could have a direct impact on how they respond to the 2020 candidates, and even whether they vote or stay home.

A factor analysis finds that Americans can be grouped into four major categories according to their pattern of financial worries in the April 2019 survey.

  • About half (49%) have at least one immediate worry such as paying their rent or mortgage, making the minimum payments on their credit cards or paying their normal monthly bills.
  • 14% have no immediate financial concerns, but do worry about one or both healthcare issues: paying for normal healthcare or paying the medical costs involved with a major illness or accident.
  • 10% have no immediate or healthcare worries, but have financial anxiety related to longer-term issues: affording retirement and/or paying for a child's college.
  • All others go into a non-worry group which represents about a quarter of the public (27%).

Those with immediate cashflow concerns tend to be Democrats and disapprove of Trump while those with no concerns are mostly Republicans and approve of Trump. But those with healthcare-specific anxiety or fear of their long-term financial stability are more evenly split politically. This means that these two broad areas could be pivotal in the 2020 elections as their impact could benefit either political party.

To be sure, Americans are generally satisfied with their personal finances, but many lack confidence in their ability to afford retirement, an emergency expense or even their daily living costs.

Roughly two-thirds, 67%, describe their financial situation as generally good, up slightly from 62% who said so at the start of the year, according to a survey by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

Their brighter economic outlook reflects in part a decade-long U.S. economic expansion that is now the longest on record. The expansion has slashed unemployment, revived the housing market and boosted overall household wealth. But some groups, especially young adults, racial minorities and the poor, say they remain financially insecure.

Their anxiety is among the consequences of the economic expansion, which has benefited the most affluent far more than it has others. The richest Americans now hold a greater share of the nation's wealth than they did before the Great Recession began in 2007.

Housing and college costs have imposed a much heavier strain on today's young adults than they did on older generations. And four decades of sluggish pay growth have depressed staring salaries for people who are beginning their careers.

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Gallup has found that as the economy has improved during President Donald Trump's presidency, Americans' anxiety about most financial matters has not.
gallup, economic, success, financial, anxiety
Wednesday, 17 July 2019 11:48 AM
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