Are Consumers Bullish on Their Financial Futures?

Mixed reviews on job growth, D-day for tax time and rising food prices all played a part in how consumers felt about their finances earlier this month – and spending. New reports on consumer confidence don’t exactly show a happy-go-lucky consumer for the second month in a row and that has implications for payments, commerce and retail. Find out more.

By Jeffrey Green (@epaymentsguy)


Consumer financial optimism in March decreased for the second consecutive month, fueled by sluggish job growth, the national tax season and rising food prices, according to the Financial Optimism Index from the Consumer Bankers Association and AOL.


In March, the index dropped to -6.2, down 3.6 points from -2.6 in February. In October last year when the government shut down, the index hit -24.6. It rose to -8.8 a month later when the government reopened, peaking at +4 in January based on positive economic news.


The value of the index for each month is calculated as the percentage of respondents who are net pessimistic subtracted from the percentage of respondents who are net optimistic in that month.  The index can range from +100 (all respondents optimistic) to -100 (all respondents pessimistic), with zero being the midpoint of the index’s range.


Survey questions each month are asked to a random national sample of approximately 1,600 U.S. online adults ages 18 and older in the AOL/Ipsos MediaCT Brand Tracking Survey. The index tracks optimism through agreement with four statements in a survey, and in March consumers’ aggregate responses were:


  • I am optimistic about my personal financial future: 66 percent net agreed in March, down from 68 percent in February, while 21 percent strongly agreed, down from 22 percent the previous month.


  • I am worried about my current financial situation: 64 percent net agreed, up from 59 percent, while 38 percent strongly agreed, up from 23 percent.


  • The news I’ve been hearing in the past few weeks about Americans’ personal finances has been generally positive: 36 percent net agreed, up from 34 percent, while 8 percent strongly agreed, up from 7 percent.


  • I am worried that the current economic and political situation is going to affect my personal finances: flat net at 78 percent, while 34 percent strongly agreed, down from 35 percent.





The How We Shop Report, a PYMNTS collaboration with PayPal, aims to understand how consumers of all ages and incomes are shifting to shopping and paying online in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Our research builds on a series of studies conducted since March, surveying more than 16,000 consumers on how their shopping habits and payments preferences are changing as the crisis continues. This report focuses on our latest survey of 2,163 respondents and examines how their increased appetite for online commerce and digital touchless methods, such as QR codes, contactless cards and digital wallets, is poised to shape the post-pandemic economy.

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