Rich Americans worried about US economy, study finds

They're most cautious since the years preceding the financial crisis

Wealthy Americans are the most cautious about the state of the U.S. economy since the years preceding the financial crisis.

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Investor sentiment on the economy for the next 12 months plummeted by 14 points to -7, the lowest level since 2006, according to Fidelity Investments' Millionaire Outlook Confidence Index. For wealthy Americans, there was also a "significant gap" between their current confidence and their future confidence on financial factors like retirement savings, debt management and real estate.

The study surveyed 2,026 investors, including 1,102 millionaires, about five measures: the economy, the stock market, real estate values and consumer and business spending.

Lackluster confidence in the report shows that some investors are worried the longest economic expansion on record could be coming to an end -- or at least slowing down -- despite economic indicators that suggest otherwise.

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In November, job growth rebounded, with the economy adding a much-better-than-expected 266,000 jobs and unemployment returning to a half-century low. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell also characterized the economy as "strong" during the U.S. central bank’s final policy-setting meeting of the year on Wednesday.

Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell arrives to speaks at a news conference after the Federal Open Market Committee meeting, Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

"Our economic outlook remains a favorable one, despite global developments and ongoing risks," Powell said during a news conference.

There was no clear reason why some investors were stressed about the economy. Still, there is a caveat to the study: It was conducted in August, amid a surge of fears that the U.S. was headed toward a recession after the spread between 2-year and 1-year Treasury yields inverted.

"I think we're in the middle of a global slowdown, and we're just going to have to assess how this is going to affect the U.S. economy," St. Louis Fed President James Bullard said at the time.

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Concerns about health were also a top issue for both millionaires and non-millionaires, evidence that having ample financial resources doesn't always reduce worry.

"There are a lot of stressors in life that are universal and difficult to predict, like health issues or the state of the economy," David Canter, head of the registered investment advisor segment at Fidelity Clearing & Custody Solutions, said in a statement.

Total national health expenditures last year increased by 4.6 percent to $3.6 trillion last year, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said. The U.S. spent about $11.172 per person, and national health care spending accounted for about 17.7 percent of the total U.S. economy last year, compared with 17.9 percent in 2017. It was roughly the same as 2016.

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