Pockets of Weakness in Household Well-Being but Generally Stable, Making Progress

“[T]he national recovery will ultimately be, in part, a reflection of the well-being of households and consumers.” The Federal Reserve released the results of a new survey showing 30 percent of households consider themselves better off than they were in 2008; 34 percent are doing about the same; the remainder are worse off. These challenges bled into the broader economy, the report argues. Student loans highlight a source of economic weakness, as respondents reduced spending to keep up with loan payments. Individuals are delaying retirement due to “thin” savings. Half the respondents say they save nothing each month, while 20 percent say they spend more than they take in. Nearly all savings cushions were used up during the recession. Wages appear to be stagnating, 77 percent of respondents do not expect a raise in the next year, and many feel they are being paid less than in a normal year. The report concludes these pockets of weakness tell a “complex” story. Despite these hurdles, the report concludes “U.S. households seem to be generally stable.” The majority of the population is making progress in recovering from the financial crisis. “Most people reported that they are living comfortably or doing okay.” Households contribute meaningfully to GDP. This report may be the first inkling of broad economic recovery, which could bring higher interest rates.