American Families Approach 2024 with Cautious Optimism

January 22, 2024 Author: Roy Eduardo Kokoyachuk

Financial curveballs sent many American families reeling in 2023. Household budgets were squeezed by rising interest rates, surging prices on everyday goods, and a stagnating housing market. Consumers were feeling strapped. That sentiment, however, appears to be waning. The question is, to what extent?

To take the pulse of consumers’ feelings about their financial well-being ahead of a highly anticipated election, ThinkNow conducted a nationally representative quantitative survey. The survey highlights consumers’ hopes and anxieties as we move into 2024. Let's unpack the key findings to gain insights about where we stand.

Download the report here.

Optimism Is on the Rise

Nearly twice as many respondents in our survey anticipate an improvement in their financial situation (both personal and family) for 2024 (38%) compared to those expecting a decline (20%) when compared to 2023. And, around two-thirds of respondents feel confident managing their finances moving into 2024. African Americans and Baby Boomers lead in this category, while Gen Z lags behind. This gap highlights a potential need for targeted financial education initiatives, especially among younger consumers.

Some Still Feeling Overwhelmed

The financial optimism isn't shared equally. Hispanics, non-Hispanic Whites, and Millennials top the list of those feeling financially overwhelmed. While N.H. Whites worry about retirement more than African Americans, both groups face significant pressure. Interestingly, Baby Boomers seem the most grounded, with the lowest reported stress.

Compared to last year, almost half of the respondents have reported a significant increase in their financial anxiety—notably, women, N.H. Whites and Gen Xers are at the forefront of this trend. Despite these challenges, optimism isn’t lost. Approximately two-thirds of respondents believe their finances will improve in 2024, with Gen Z and Millennials emerging as the most optimistic.

Navigating the Debt Dilemma

Debt looms large, with half of the respondents burdened by it. While Asians and Gen Z carry less debt, Millennials and Gen X grapple with debt, especially credit card debt, the most. Making payments is a struggle for many, with African Americans, Gen Z, and women the most impacted. Rising interest rates add another layer of anxiety, particularly for African Americans and Baby Boomers. Previously sustainable debt levels can become overwhelming as interest rates rise.

As per the headlines, inflation is the top financial concern across the board, followed by unexpected expenses and housing costs. Gen Z worries less about inflation and the economy compared to older generations, but housing affordability and saving for the future weigh heavily on their minds.

Fortunately, over half of respondents actively seek support when stressed about finances, especially Gen Z and Millennials, known for being more open and vocal about their lives. While most respondents are likely to reach out to family and friends for advice, the willingness to openly talk about finances is still somewhat taboo. African Americans and Baby Boomers are ‘very uncomfortable’ talking about their finances with others.

Promoting Financial Wellness

Finally, the survey emphasizes the importance of financial education, with an overwhelming majority acknowledging its crucial role in financial well-being. This underscores the need for financial literacy programs accessible across all demographics to empower individuals to manage their finances confidently.

Remember This

America's financial landscape is diverse, with different groups facing unique challenges and holding varying degrees of hope. Recognizing these disparities and fostering financial literacy across all generations and ethnic groups is key to building a more financially secure and resilient economy.

For deeper insights into the ThinkNow 2024 Consumer Financial Wellness Report, download it here for free.