Are Americans Better Off Today Than a Year Ago? Freedom Debt Relief Survey Says Maybe

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69% of Americans find paying a $500 unexpected bill problematic.

Freedom Debt Relief is part of Freedom Financial Network a family of companies providing innovative solutions that empower people to live healthier financial lives. For people struggling with debt, the custom Freedom Debt Relief program offers the chance to significantly reduce and resolve what they owe more quickly than they could on their own. Headquartered in San Mateo, California, Freedom Debt Relief also operates an office in Tempe, Arizona, and employs more than 2,400.

Freedom Debt Relief

Americans have a generally positive outlook on the state of their financial situation, but that sentiment does not align with the inability to handle unexpected expenses, a lack of savings, and a reliance on credit cards for everyday expenses.

Results of a new Freedom Debt Relief survey on how Americans feel about their finances show that they are maintaining a generally positive outlook on the state of their personal finances as the new decade begins – with some worrisome contradictory indicators.

Asked if they are better off today than a year ago, 43% said they feel the same financially, 27% say they feel financially worse off, and 30% say they feel better off financially. More Millennials (39%) and Gen Zers (43%) said they feel better off financially compared to last year, versus Gen Xers (28%) and Baby Boomers (19%).

More than half (55%) of respondents said they are confident in their personal financial outlook. Other positive indicators include:

  • 63% say they have a plan to achieve long-term financial goals
  • 69% are confident in their ability to make major financial decisions.
  • 56% believe 2020 is a good year to buy a home.
  • 51% expect a tax refund from the federal government this year.
  • 49% said their 2019 household income was in line with expectations. Almost the same number (47%) expect their household income to be higher this year.

Worrisome indicators
At the same time, nearly 7 in 10 respondents say that paying an unexpected $500 bill would be problematic. Thirty-six percent have less than $500 in their checking and savings accounts (excluding retirement accounts). Almost a third (30%) of respondents carried a credit card balance for six or more months during 2019. Only 26% are very confident they will pay off their credit card debt this year, but 48% are very confident that they will pay it off in time.

Everyday expenses are driving credit card debt to a large degree. Of those who reported these expenses in the survey, the one that is the biggest contributor to credit card debt is groceries (21%). Almost half (44%) of those surveyed put groceries on their credit cards at least monthly. Of those who have carried a balance on their credit card, 26% say groceries are the cause; another 20% cite retail expenses.

In addition, many of those surveyed found that the following expenses cost more than they had anticipated in 2019.

  • Food (48%)
  • Utilities (water, electricity) (39%)
  • Healthcare (37%)
  • Internet/TV (34%)

What would you give up to get out of debt?
Respondents are, however, anxious to get out of debt. Two-thirds (66%) say they have changed their spending habits to avoid debt. Those surveyed said they would be willing to give up the following to get out of debt.

  • Alcohol: 45%
  • Going out to dinner: 44%
  • Traveling: 35%
  • Coffee: 34%

Additional survey findings
The survey also examines:

  • Barriers to home buying
  • Use of tax refunds
  • Greatest contributors (expenses) to credit card debt
  • Expenses that were more than anticipated in 2019
  • Ambitions and emotions

“The findings depict a dichotomy between optimism and some critical concerns,” says Michael Micheletti, director of corporate communications for Freedom Debt Relief. “Americans have a generally positive outlook on the state of their financial situation, and many indicate the desire and ability to improve their lives. That sentiment does not align with the inability to handle unexpected expenses, a lack of savings, and a reliance on credit cards for everyday expenses. These behaviors put many Americans’ way of life at risk in the event of any change in personal or national economies.”

Commissioned by Freedom Debt Relief, the online poll of 2,005 adults in the United States was conducted by Atomik Research Jan. 10-13. Data was weighted for age, gender and geography using the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey to reflect the demographic composition of the country.

A downloadable copy of the survey’s complete results, with breakouts by generation/age group, gender and income, is available.

Freedom Debt Relief
Co-founded by Andrew Housser and Brad Stroh, Freedom Debt Relief is part of Freedom Financial Network, LLC, a family of companies providing innovative solutions that empower people to live healthier financial lives. For people struggling with debt, the custom Freedom Debt Relief program offers the chance to significantly reduce and resolve what they owe more quickly than they could on their own. For more information about the company and its services, see http://www.freedomdebtrelief.com/faq.

Headquartered in San Mateo, California, Freedom Debt Relief also operates an office in Tempe, Arizona, and employs more than 2,400. The company has been voted one of the best places to work in both the San Francisco Bay area and the Phoenix area for several years.

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Michael Micheletti
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