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More Consumers Worry About Their Finances After a Busy Holiday Season

Updated: Jan. 10, 2023 | By Charlotte Principato and Caroline Smith

Each month Morning Consult polls at least 2,200 U.S. adults about how they view their personal financial situations and how this perception impacts their ability to feel secure and enjoy freedom of choice. This data is incorporated into Morning Consult’s Financial Well-Being Scale, modeled after a scale by the same name from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). You can learn more about Morning Consult’s scale in our methodology below.

How to read this data: The Financial Well-Being scores reflect the extent to which a person’s financial situation provides them with security and freedom of choice. Consumers’ Financial Well-Being scores can change over time, and while some score shifts may appear small, even the slightest change can be meaningful. For example, according to the CFPB, an individual’s 1-point month-over-month increase is associated with a $15,000 increase in household income, a five-year age increase or a 20-point credit score hike.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

Financial well-being dipped as consumers reckon with holiday spending. Though consumers were feeling better about their finances before the holidays, the financial well-being score of the average U.S. adult has dropped to 48.83, down 1.25 points from November. Consumers are particularly worried about their purchasing power as inflation on basics like food and shelter remains high. Half of consumers said they are concerned their money won’t last, compared with 46% who said the same in December 2021. 

Women are more anxious about their finances. The average financial well-being score for women fell more than two points, settling at 46.55 in December — 4.73 points lower than the score for men. Men are typically less concerned about their finances than women, and a similar divide exists when it comes to handling major unexpected expenses. In December, 30% of men said they could handle an unexpected expense, compared with 18% of women. 

High-income consumers weathered the holiday spending season better than those earning less. High earners’ financial well-being scores stayed relatively consistent before and after the holidays, but the same can’t be said for lower-income households. Those earning less than $50,000 per year saw a 1.2 point drop in their financial well-being scores, while  consumers earning between $50,000 and $100,000 fared worse. The score of these middle-income households was 51.7 in December, a 1.99 point drop from the previous month.

KEY DEMOGRAPHICS

Financial Well-Being Scale Buoyed by Boomers, High Earners

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CONTROL OVER FINANCES

‘My finances control my life’

Shares who say the above phrase describes them “always” or “often”

‘Giving a gift for a wedding, birthday or other occasion would put a strain on my finances for the month’

Shares who say the above phrase describes them “always” or “often”

FINANCIAL FREEDOM

‘Because of my money situation, I feel like I will never have the things I want in life’

Shares who say the above phrase describes them “completely” or “very well”

CAPACITY TO ABSORB A FINANCIAL SHOCK

‘I could handle a major or unexpected expense’

Shares who say the above phrase describes them “completely” or “very well”

ON TRACK TO MEET GOALS

‘I am securing my financial future’

Shares who say the above phrase describes them “completely” or “very well”

The above charts represent 5 of the 10 prompts used to calculate financial well-being. For information on the five additional prompts, contact cprincipato@morningconsult.com.

ABOUT

Methodology

Morning Consult surveys at least 2,200 U.S. adults every month on their financial health, well-being, habits and attitudes. To determine overall financial well-being, Morning Consult replicated the CFPB’s Financial Well-Being Scale and scoring methodology.

The CFPB created its Financial Well-Being Scale in 2015 for the purpose of allowing “practitioners and researchers to accurately and consistently quantify, and therefore observe, something that the respondent already has a sense of — the extent to which their financial situation and the financial capability that they have developed provide them with security and freedom of choice.” The scale includes 10 questions for gauging present and future security and freedom of choice, touching on consumers’ control over their finances, their capacity to absorb financial shocks and their trajectory to meet their financial goals.

The 10 questions were selected by the CFPB through cognitive testing, factor analysis and psychometric testing of large populations. The score used for the Financial Well-Being Scale is based on Item Response Theory (IRT) analysis, a statistical method that provides a more precise measure than a summary score.

The IRT-based scoring method allows researchers to give precise and consistent estimates for the aspects of financial well-being that have traditionally been hard to quantify, including feelings of empowerment, confidence and satisfaction. Scores can be calculated via a two-step process. First, the respondent’s self-assessment is converted to a zero-to-four scale; second, a lookup table is used to convert each total response value to the Financial Well-Being Scale based on the respondent’s age group.

On April 1, 2022, Morning Consult updated its general population weighting targets for the United States to be more representative of the most recent population data. This change has slightly and not meaningfully altered some historical data in this tracker.

About Morning Consult

Morning Consult is a global decision intelligence company changing how modern leaders make smarter, faster, better decisions. The company pairs its proprietary high-frequency data with applied artificial intelligence to better inform decisions on what people think and how they will act. Learn more at morningconsult.com

About the author

Charlotte Principato is the financial services analyst on the Industry Intelligence team, where she conducts research, authors analyst notes and advises leaders in the financial services industry on how to apply insights to make better business decisions.

Caroline Smith is a manager of financial services intelligence at Morning Consult, where she analyzes high-frequency data to help the company deliver real-time insights to the financial services sector.

Email  to speak with a member of the Morning Consult team.

Special thanks also to Sam Hughes; Laura Maxwell, Ph.D.; Rachel Venaglia, Ph.D.; Samantha Elbouez and Sara Wickersham for their assistance with this project.