According to Bankrate.com’s August Financial Security Index, that is consistent with the national sentiment. The Financial Security Index’s latest reading improved slightly, from 97.9 to 99.0. Readings less than 100 indicate that Americans have lower financial security than the 12 previous months. The index has been below 100 in 19 of the 21 months since its inception in December 2010.
In August, each of the five factors the index measures — job security, savings, debt, net worth and overall financial situation — increased relative to July’s index, but not enough to tip the Financial Security Index into positive territory.
“Overall, Americans are still voicing the sentiment that their financial security has deteriorated slightly over the past year,” said Greg McBride, senior financial analyst for Bankrate.com. “Savings is the Achilles heel of financial security. People are less comfortable, rather than more comfortable, with their savings compared to one year ago — by more than a 2-1 margin.”
McBride said that until people are more comfortable with where the economy is headed and see sustained wage growth, it will be difficult for financial security to move into positive territory.
According to the index, only 18 percent of working Americans are saving more for retirement in 2012 than they did in 2011 (compared to 15 percent last year). In addition, fewer people are saving less (18 percent compared to 29 percent in 2011), while more than half (55 percent) are saving the same as last year.
Those scenarios are trending in Cobb.
“We are finding that our clients are worried about the uncertainty of the financial markets, the tax landscape and rising health care costs,” said Ben T. Phelps, senior VP area executive with BB&T. “Many of our clients are sitting on cash rather than investing, whether it be investing in stocks and bonds or investing in their businesses.”
Melissa Hallmark, senior relationship manager at United Capital Atlanta, said her clients are starting to think more about saving money.
“Clients want to be prepared for another economic downturn,” Hallmark said. “But they still fear things such as Social Security running out, the overall general economic outlook and moving from a double income to a single income due to the loss of a job.”
Michael J. Pallerino has reported on business news for magazines and newspapers in the Atlanta area for more than 20 years.
FIVE WAYS YOU CAN SAVE MONEY NOW
1. Take advantage of historically low interest rates. Consider refinancing mortgages and other loans and locking in low interest rates for an extended period of time.
2. Avoid and/or reduce high interest-rate debts (credit card, etc.).
3. Maximize pre-tax contributions to retirement accounts. It sounds overly simple, but statistics are staggering on how many individuals overlook this simple tax-saving and retirement planning strategy.
4. Maximize contributions to flex spending accounts (health care, dependent care, transportation, etc.). Look at how much you spent last year and make sure you plan accordingly. Remember, these contributions reduce your income taxes.
5. Avoid procrastination. By planning ahead, you can save money in many aspects of your life. Avoid deferring maintenance on your home and vehicle. Make sure you are attending to your health regularly to prevent costly medical expenses and/or procedures.
— Source: Ben T. Phelps, senior vice president area executive with BB&T, Northwest Atlanta