The economy may be making a slow comeback, but don't expect Americans consumers to return to their pre-recession behaviors.
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After surviving the 2008 financial crisis, more consumers are living within their means. A recent survey from Chase Card Services found 63% of Americans have changed their spending and borrowing habits as a result of the recession.
The 2011 Chase Blueprint-Consumer Action Pulse of the Consumer survey found that this shift in behavior has nearly two-thirds of respondents feeling that their personal finances are in good shape. However, their outlook on the economy isn't as sunny: 60% reported they feel the economy will get worse. This pessimistic outlook is bad news for the economy, consumer sentiment drives spending, which is a vital ingredient to a recovery.
The survey also suggests consumers are saving more with 77% reported they are at least somewhat financially prepared for a hypothetical large expense of $1,500. In addition, 66% said they feel “at least mostly in control” of their financial situation.
The survey was conducted using a telephone poll of more than 1,000 randomly-selected adults.
Caryn Kaiser, general manager of Chase Blueprint, said that while it was unsurprising to see that many Americans were still concerned with the current economic climate, it’s a good sign that people are more confident and in control of their finances.
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"I didn't think I'd hear such a voice of confidence within personal finances," Kaiser said. "The economy has pushed people to think more about where their money is going."
People are being more cautious about budgeting. The survey found that 87% of Americans are at least putting some thought into their spending and borrowing each month. Three-quarters would also categorize their borrowing habits as "always mindful," and 71% said their spending habits would also be categorized that way.
But will this behavior stick, once the economy is truly back on track? Kaiser said It is impossible to tell.
"It's always more relevant to pay attention to finances when times are tough. We certainly hope these will be lasting lessons and behaviors."
This mindfulness of finances is rubbing off beyond consumers’ bank accounts. Fifty-four percent of respondents said that having a set plan for borrowing and spending--and sticking to it--helps them to maintain a good money-life balance.
The survey also found that 37% would spend more time managing personal finances if it were simpler.
"It's one of the lessons and messages (from the survey)," Kaiser said. "People can try not to make things so complex—it doesn't have to be so hard. Know what you are spending and borrowing. It is really encouraging to see this confidence—it shows the resiliency in the American population."