New National Poll: How Are Americans Coping as Economic Slowdown Persists?

Contact: Ken McEldowney or Linda Sherry, Consumer Action (415) 777-9648;
Diana Don, Capital One (703) 205-1165

February 21, 2002 -- A nationwide survey of U.S. residents conducted on behalf of Capital One and Consumer Action's Money Wi$e program gives some key insights into the financial behaviors of adults across the nation during this time of economic uncertainty. The Money Wi$e campaign is designed to provide consumers with the information they need to start developing a plan for spending and saving money.

Spenders Tighten Purse Strings and Secure Savings

  • Fifty-seven percent of respondents report they are spending money more conservatively in 2002 than in 2001.
  • Among different age groups, spending patterns differ. Seventy-five percent of respondents ages 35 to 44 report that they are spending more conservatively this year compared to last, while only 37 percent of respondents 65 and older claim to be spending more conservatively this year.
  • Twenty-three percent of respondents are cutting back on depositing into savings or retirement accounts.

Consumers Cut Back on Leisure Activities

Top areas where Americans are cutting back on spending include purchasing clothes or appliances (78 percent), dining out (75 percent), going on vacations or traveling (73 percent) and spending on entertainment like movies or amusement (65 percent).

Age and income level plays a role in cutting back expenses. Notable national statistics:

  • Ninety-one percent of respondents ages 55 to 64 have cut back on purchasing clothes or appliances, compared to 67 percent of respondents ages 18 to 34.
  • Eighty-eight percent of respondents with an annual household income of less than $25,000 a year have cut back on dining out, compared to 64 percent of those with an annual household income of $50,000 to $75,000.
  • Eighty-one percent of respondents with an annual household income of less than $25,000 a year have cut back on vacations and travel compared to 58 percent of respondents with an annual household income of $75,000 a year or more.

Moonlighting Makes More 'Cents' than Tapping Other Resources

  • Sixty-six percent of respondents say they would take a second job to make ends meet in the face of financial challenge.
  • Younger respondents are more willing to take a second job than older ones. Seventy-nine percent of those ages 18 to 34 say they would take a second job compared to 65 percent of respondents ages 45 to 54.
  • Seventy-four percent of respondents say they would not tap into retirement accounts in order to makes ends meet in the face of financial challenge.

Concern for Job Security Prompts Some to Set Aside Savings

  • Fifty-nine percent of respondents report having emergency funds set aside in case they get laid off.
  • Sixty-five percent of male respondents report having emergency funds set aside compared to 54 percent of female respondents.
  • One in four Americans feel that they could get by for over a year without a job, considering the emergency funds they have set aside.
  • Four out of five Americans who have not specifically set aside emergency funds feel that they could get by without a job for only three months or less.

Regional Observations ­ Does It Matter Where You Live?

Sixty-two percent of respondents from the West claim to be spending more conservatively in 2002 than in 2001 followed by those in the North (60 percent), the South (55 percent) and the Central region (55 percent).

In the face of financial challenges, 76 percent of respondents from both the Northern and Western regions of the U.S. say they would take a second job to make ends meet compared to 59 percent of respondents from both the Southern and Central regions.

Financial preparedness for a possible layoff differs across the country. The following statistics show those who have set aside emergency funds in case they get laid off:

  • 65 percent of respondents from the West
  • 51 percent of those from the South
  • 62 percent of respondents from the North
  • 64 percent from the Central region of the U.S.

*Survey of U.S. residents 18 and over conducted by International Communications Research

 

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