In the two years since the end of America’s recent Great Recession, there have been plenty of ups and downs in economic forecasts, fiscal prognostications, and financial facts and figures. Polls have also been a big part of taking the country’s financial pulse, as average Americans are often asked, “how are you feeling now, post-recession?”
Some experts will tell you that as recently as last fall—with news that businesses were back to hiring, some saying the housing market was no longer in a tailspin, and the economy looking less bleak than before—men and women throughout the country were beginning to feel better about their personal financial prospects.
But according to a new Associated Press-GfK poll, this economic high was short-lived as Congress’s deadlock over the debt ceiling and the burden of stress related to household debt on the rise in nearly half the country. Fast forward to today and one in five folks are worried about debt “most” or “all of the time.”
“If they bought something on a credit card in the past month, more than a third say they won't pay it off when the bill comes,” said the AP. “The increased stress represents a reversal from last fall's AP-GfK poll, which found increasing confidence about personal finances. Debt-related stress is up 17 percent from that November survey, bumping such worries back up to levels seen in 2009 and in the spring of last year. ‘It's not that our debt is huge. It's just hard to make it, month to month,’ said Theresa Telford, 45, a teacher's aide raising four kids with her husband, a sheriff's deputy. ’It seems like everything is going up, but wages aren't going up.’”
This problem of sustained debt stress combined with underemployment may not be new to a recession-weary American public in the wake of the sustained economic malaise. But combined with continual threats of layoffs amid high unemployment, even folks fortunate enough to have a job (or two) are feeling the proverbial budgetary pain.
As the AP reported, “although the recession officially ended in June 2009, Americans display little faith in a recovery hobbled by grinding unemployment, slow economic growth, volatile gasoline and food prices and political feuding over how to stem the skyrocketing national debt. Consumer confidence fell to a seven-month low in June in the Conference Board's survey.”
As has been well reported, this current economic climate has virtually decimated the middle class, shaking family budgets to the core and forcing many, if not all, middle-income Americans to rethink they way they live, work and spend.
But this not-so-pretty economic picture isn’t just hitting lower-to-middle class folks hard. The AP poll found that “households earning more than $75,000 had the biggest increase in debt-related stress since November. But stress levels continue to be highest within the most vulnerable groups: households that have lost jobs, people with family incomes below $20,000, single parents, and adults without high school diplomas. Married moms and adults under 30 years old showed significantly more anxiety than in the fall. In all, more than 40 million Americans are feeling serious stress over the money they owe, whether it's for credit cards, mortgages, car loans or other debts, the poll indicates.”
While this poll of feelings about the nation’s financial future remain nothing short of bleak, the good news remains that through bankruptcy, Americans facing job insecurity, unemployment and underemployment, can take their future into their own hands, and stop drowning in health care, credit card and mortgage debt, and begin on the road to a more viable financial future.
Don’t let hard times bring your family down.
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