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Americans' Personal Financial Assessments Up Sharply

Americans' Personal Financial Assessments Up Sharply

Story Highlights

  • In U.S., 47% say they are financially better off than a year ago
  • Financial assessments much better than in early 2014
  • Current results approach those of stronger economic times

PRINCETON, N.J. -- Americans are much more likely to report that they are financially better off now (47%) compared with a year ago than to say they are worse off (28%). Last January, more said they were worse off than better off, consistent with most measurements since the Great Recession began. The more positive results this year are closer to what Gallup measured during strong economic times over the past 40 years -- such as in the late 1980s and late 1990s -- than in sluggish economic times.

Trend: Next, we are interested in how people’s financial situation may have changed. Would you say that you are financially better off now than you were a year ago, or are you financially worse off now?

Americans' rosier financial assessments come as falling gas prices have benefited nearly all Americans and rising stock values in the past year have benefited most. The job market by all accounts is better than it was a year ago.

The latest results mark a dramatic turnaround from the recent recession and post-recession years. In May 2009, 54% of Americans said their financial situation was worse and 23% better, the gloomiest assessment in Gallup's 40-year trend. Last year at this time, 35% of Americans said their financial situation was getting better and 42% said it was getting worse.

The most positive personal financial assessments came in the late 1990s and in 2000, when a majority consistently said their financial situation was better than a year prior. Specifically, in 1999, an average of 56% of Americans said they were better off, compared with 21% saying worse off.

Personal Financial Ratings Improve in All Key Subgroups

Americans in all key subgroups see an improved personal financial outlook, with each showing at least marginal improvement in their ratings between the January 2014 and January 2015 polls. Younger Americans and those living in middle-income households saw slightly greater improvements, with increases of 20 and 19 points, respectively, in the percentage of each group saying they are better off financially.

Changes in Assessments of Personal Financial Situation, January 2014 vs. January 2015

Lower-income Americans showed only a slight increase from 32% getting better in 2014 to 36% this year. Lower-income Americans are the only key subgroup who remain more likely to say their situation is getting worse rather than better.

Republicans also saw below-average improvement in their ratings, suggesting that personal financial ratings are not free from political considerations, as Republicans may be reluctant to acknowledge that circumstances of any kind are getting better at a time when the sitting president is a Democrat.

Americans Expect Good Times to Continue

Americans generally believe their financial situations will stay on a positive arc, with 65% saying they expect to be better off a year from now, while 15% expect to be worse off. Americans have generally been optimistic about their financial future. At no point in the last 40 years -- even during tough economic times -- have more Americans predicted their finances to get worse rather than better.

Trend: Looking ahead, do you expect that at this time next year you will be financially better off than now, or worse off than now?

Even so, the current 65% who expect their finances to improve in the next 12 months is on the high end of what Gallup has measured historically, just six points below the peak of 71% from March 1998.


Americans' ratings of their personal financial situations have improved greatly over the past year. This is consistent with the improved ratings of Americans' standard of living and growing confidence in the U.S. economy that Gallup recently reported.

The current personal financial situation ratings are now at or near the high levels Gallup measured in the past four decades when the U.S. economy was strong. The improvement is especially notable given that just five years ago, near the end of the Great Recession, Americans gave the bleakest assessment of their personal finances at any time in the last 40 years.

As usual, most Americans expect things to continue to improve over the next year, but the optimism they express about the coming year also exceeds what is typical. Whether Americans' finances actually improve over the coming year will depend in large part on whether the national economy continues to get better, or takes a step back.

Survey Methods

Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Jan. 5-8, 2015, with a random sample of 804 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. For results based on the total sample of national adults, the margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. All reported margins of sampling error include computed design effects for weighting.

Each sample of national adults includes a minimum quota of 50% cellphone respondents and 50% landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas by time zone within region. Landline and cellular telephone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods.

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