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COUNTRY Financial Security Index

College Fears Cloud Americans’ Financial Optimism

May 20, 2015

On the heels of the latest positive jobs report, Americans are feeling upbeat about money matters except one looming issue. The COUNTRY Financial Security Index, which measures American attitudes toward finances, jumped 2.1 points to 66.9, the highest score reported since the financial crisis hit the U.S. in 2008. College affordability, however, remains a source of pessimism for many.

In the aftermath of The Great Recession (June 2011), Americans’ financial sentiments reached an all-time low of 63.7. Fiscal confidence has since improved meaningfully for Americans, with half ranking their overall level of financial security as good or excellent, up nine percent since the last Index report in December 2014. Americans feel good about their financial futures, too, with nearly four out of five reporting their fiscal situation is on track to improve or at least stay the same.

“The effects of the Recession may finally be wearing off for some Americans,” says Troy Frerichs, director of wealth management at COUNTRY Financial. “It’s important to channel this optimism into effective planning and saving for the future, which can always hold uncertainty. Achieving financial security means being prepared for economic fluctuations of both expansion and contraction.”

Positivity emerges halfway through 2015

Americans report increased levels of confidence in all areas of money management, including their ability to save, invest, retire and pay off debts.

  • The large majority of Americans (78 percent) feel confident in their ability to pay all of their debts as they come due, a two percent increase from December 2014.
  • Fifty percent of Americans report setting aside money for savings or investment, up 12 percent since December 2014.
  • Nearly three in five (58 percent) Americans believe it’s likely they will have enough money to enjoy a comfortable retirement, compared to only half (50 percent) of Americans in December 2014.

College costs still holding Americans back

While Americans are positive on many elements of financial security, their confidence in their ability to send their children to college is lagging.

  • Just 18 percent of Americans say they are very confident they have the financial resources to send their children to college.
  • The number of Americans who feel very confident about sending their children to college fell 12 percent during the first half of 2015.

Millennials, aged 18-29, are among the least confident in their ability to pay off debts – such as student loans – when they come due. The average graduate this year with student-loans will have more than $35,000 in debt, according to a recent report by Edvisors, a group of websites about planning and paying for college. Just 37 percent of these Millennials report being very confident about paying back their debts.

“Planning for your child’s tuition, which is on the rise, can understandably be daunting when objectives like saving for retirement and paying off other debts are on the horizon. Meeting with a financial advisor can help you weigh various funding options and discover how college can effectively fit into your overall financial plan,” adds Frerichs.

The COUNTRY Financial Security Index®

Since 2007, the COUNTRY Financial Security Index has measured Americans’ sentiments of their personal financial security. The Index also delves deeper into individual personal finance topics to better inform Americans about the issues impacting their finances. Survey data, videos and analysis are available at www.countryfinancialsecurityblog.com.  

The COUNTRY Financial Security Index was created by COUNTRY Financial and is compiled by GfK, an independent research firm. Surveys were conducted using GfK’s KnowledgePanel®, a national, probability-based panel designed to be representative of the general population and includes responses from approximately 1,000 U.S. adults for national surveys. The margin of sampling error for a survey based on this many interviews is approximately +/- 3 percentage points with a 95 percent level of confidence.

Figures cited from December 2008 were compiled by Rasmussen Reports, LLC, an independent research firm, based on a national telephone and online survey of at least 3,000 Americans. The margin of sampling error for the December 2008 survey was based on this many interviews was approximately +/- 2 percentage points with a 95 percent level of confidence.

About COUNTRY Financial

The COUNTRY Financial group (www.countryfinancial.com) serves about one million households and businesses throughout the United States. It offers a full range of financial products and services from auto, home, business and life insurance to retirement planning services, investment management and annuities.