Business

Americans' Worry About Personal Finances Holds Steady

Energy costs have declined as a budget concern

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

PRINCETON, NJ -- The U.S. Labor Department's consumer price index fell by 0.1% in May following months of rising prices, but Americans' level of financial anxiety and their estimated retail spending patterns have been fairly stable since February. This is according to Gallup's monthly economic poll, last updated May 23-26.

The poll also finds that while no single issue dominates the list of most important financial challenges Americans say their families are facing, "healthcare costs" lead, with 18% mentioning this issue. Mentions of "energy costs," which peaked as a concern in April, have since receded.

Financial Worry Has Not Changed

The percentage of Americans who say they are worried about their families' personal financial situations has consistently hovered in the 40% range this year. Approximately 6 in 10 are not worried.

Few Americans, just 15% in May, say they are very worried about family finances.

Naturally, concern about one's finances is highly related to household income. Only a small fraction of those in households earning $100,000 or more annually are very or somewhat worried (14%), compared with two-thirds of those earning less than $30,000 a year. The broad middle class -- encompassing about 6 in 10 Americans who say their incomes fall between $30,000 and $100,000 -- tends not to be worried.

Financial Worry by Household Income

$100,000 or
more

$50,000-
$99,999

$30,000-
$49,999

Less than
$30,000

%

%

%

%

Very worried

3

9

13

36

Somewhat worried

11

23

33

31

Total worried

14

32

46

67

 

 

 

 

Not worried

86

68

54

32

Grocery Bill Exceeds Other Expenditures

The stability in Americans' sense of their personal finances is also evident in a monthly measure tracking Americans' estimates of the amount of money their households will spend that month in four areas: groceries, clothing, dining out, and entertainment and recreation.

In May, the median spending estimates were $300 for groceries and $100 each for clothing, eating out, and entertainment. The mean spending estimates -- the numeric average of all responses in each category -- are higher because big spenders drive up this figure.

According to Americans' May spending projections, the average household grocery bill for the month was $365. That's higher than the $248 Americans expected to spend on entertainment, the $227 anticipated for clothing, and the $123 for dining at a restaurant.

Household Spending Estimates for May

Mean
(including zero)

Median

 

 

Groceries

$365

$300

Clothing

$227

$100

Eating dinner out

$123

$100

Entertainment

$248

$100

The expenditure estimates have been quite steady since Gallup began tracking them in February. One exception is an $81 increase in Americans' expected spending on clothing between March and April, from $170 to $251. That corresponds with national retail sales data showing a significant uptick in sales at clothing and accessories stores in April. (The Census Bureau MARTS data show a 2.7% increase in clothing/accessories spending in April compared with March -- representing the largest month-to-month increase observed across all retail sales categories for April.)

Retail Clothing Sales

Americans' mean spending
estimate for May

National retail sales,
month-to-month % change*

 

 

2005 May 23-26

$227

-0.8

2005 Apr 18-21

$251

+2.7

2005 Mar 21-23

$170

-2.1

2005 Feb 21-24

$222

+2.0

*MARTS data

Pump Pressure Eases

The Labor Department reported a 4.4% decline in gasoline prices in May -- the biggest one-month decline since last July. That drop is certainly reflected in Gallup's monthly measure of the financial issues confronting average Americans. The percentage of Americans naming energy costs as the most important financial problem facing their families fell from 11% in April to 5% in May. At the same time, the percentage mentioning healthcare costs rose from 14% to 18%. 

Healthcare costs lead the list of financial concerns facing families, followed by lack of money/low wages (mentioned by 12%), and retirement savings (9%); financial debt, unemployment, and college expenses are each mentioned by 8%.

Survey Methods

These results are based on telephone interviews with a randomly selected national sample of 1,004 adults, aged 18 and older, conducted May 23-26, 2005. For results based on this sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum error attributable to sampling and other random effects is ±3 percentage points. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

6. Now, turning to your personal financial situation, at this time, would you say you are worried about your family's finances, or not?

Yes, worried

No, not worried

No opinion

%

%

%

2005 May 23-26

41

58

1

 

 

 

 

2005 Apr 18-21

42

57

1

2005 Mar 21-23

42

57

1

2005 Feb 21-24

38

62

*

6. At this time, would you say you are worried about your family's finances, or not?

7. Are you very worried, or just somewhat worried?

COMBINED RESPONSES (Q.6-7)

Very
worried

Somewhat
worried

Not
worried

No
opinion

%

%

%

%

2005 May 23-26

15

26

58

1

 

 

 

 

2005 Apr 18-21

18

24

57

1

2005 Mar 21-23

18

24

57

1

2005 Feb 21-24

17

21

62

*

8. (Next, thinking about your family's budget and spending patterns), how much would you estimate that you and your family are going to spend on groceries this month?

BASED ON 536 NATIONAL ADULTS IN FORM A


$150 or
less


$151-
$300


$301-
$500


$501-
$999

$1,000
or more


No
opinion

Mean
(including zero)



Median

%

%

%

%

%

%

 

 

2005 May 23-26

14

36

30

13

2

5

$365

$300

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2005 Apr 18-21

16

33

29

13

4

5

$376

$300

2005 Mar 21-23

17

33

29

11

4

6

$368

$300

2005 Feb 21-24

18

34

28

9

3

8

$361

$300

9. (Next, thinking about your family's budget and spending patterns), how much would you estimate that you and your family are going to spend on clothing this month?

BASED ON 468 NATIONAL ADULTS IN FORM B

$0/
none


$1-
$50

$51-
$100

$101-
$250


$251-
$499

$500
 or more


No
opinion

Mean
(including zero)



Median

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

 

 

2005 May 23-26

18

14

23

20

5

11

9

$227

$100

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2005 Apr 18-21

23

12

22

19

9

10

5

$251

$100

2005 Mar 21-23

24

16

20

19

6

8

7

$170

$100

2005 Feb 21-24

21

19

18

18

6

11

7

$222

$100

10. How much would you estimate that you and your family are going to spend on eating dinner out at a restaurant this month?

BASED ON 536 NATIONAL ADULTS IN FORM A

$0/
none


$1-
$50

$51-
$100

$101-
$250


$251-
$499

$500
 or more


No
opinion

Mean
(including zero)



Median

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

 

 

2005 May 23-26

12

25

28

22

7

3

3

$123

$100

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2005 Apr 18-21

15

25

26

20

7

4

3

$121

$100

2005 Mar 21-23

15

26

26

22

7

2

2

$113

$100

2005 Feb 21-24

16

27

24

18

8

4

3

$116

$75

11. How much would you estimate that you and your family are going to spend on entertainment or recreational activities this month?

BASED ON 468 NATIONAL ADULTS IN FORM B

$0/
none


$1-
$50

$51-
$100

$101-
$250


$251-
$499

$500
 or more


No
opinion

Mean
(including zero)



Median

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

 

 

2005 May 23-26

11

20

25

19

7

12

6

$248

$100

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2005 Apr 18-21

14

21

21

19

12

9

4

$245

$100

2005 Mar 21-23

16

26

20

17

7

9

5

$184

$100

2005 Feb 21-24

19

25

19

16

8

8

5

$176

$100

14. What is the most important financial problem facing your family today? [OPEN-ENDED]

May
23-26,
2005

Apr
18-21,
2005

Mar
21-23,
2005

Feb
21-24,
2005

Jan
17-19,

2005

%

%

%

%

%

Healthcare costs

18

14

14

14

15

Lack of money/Low wages

12

15

10

13

12

Retirement savings

9

8

7

7

7

Too much debt/Not enough money to pay debts

8

8

8

7

14

Unemployment/Loss of job

8

7

7

8

8

College expenses

8

7

6

7

8

Cost of owning/renting a home

6

4

6

5

*

High cost of living/inflation

5

5

5

4

8

Energy costs

5

11

10

3

3

Taxes

3

3

4

4

4

Social Security

2

1

2

4

3

Interest rates

1

1

1

1

1

 

 

 

 

 

Other

4

5

2

4

7

None

16

15

18

21

18

No opinion

4

5

6

4

4

Percentages add to more than 100% due to multiple responses.

Gallup http://www.gallup.com/poll/16930/Americans-Worry-About-Personal-Finances-Holds-Steady.aspx Gallup World Headquarters, 901 F Street, Washington, D.C., 20001, U.S.A +1 202.715.3030