Associated Press, Published June 01 2010
Poll: Debt has Americans stressing out
There are new jobs produced but old worries persisting for people despite belt-tightening and boosted savings, according to an Associated Press-GfK poll.
About 46 percent of those surveyed say they’re suffering from debt-related stress, and half of that group described their amount of stress as being “great deal” or “quite a bit.” On the other hand, about 53 percent say they feel little or no stress at all.
That’s in line with findings from last year, even though times seem better today; the economy is growing and generating jobs, and households have made progress in repairing their financial footing, trimming debt, watching spending and saving more.
It’s a big turnaround from a year ago – a shrinking economy, jobs jettisoned as businesses struggled to survive the deepest recession since the 1930s.
So why aren’t the stressed – and the not-so-stressed – feeling better?
For starters, it just doesn’t feel much like a recovery to many people.
Unemployment is stubbornly high – 9.9 percent. The jobless face fierce competition for work. Those with a job are watching their paychecks shrink.
A growing number of people are at risk of falling into foreclosure, and only those with the most stellar credit probably can get a new loan. AP-GfK polls show that only 20 percent say the economy is good, compared with 15 percent last year.
Ken Goldstein, economist at the Conference Board, a research group that keeps close tabs on consumers, says it’s people’s individual circumstances – more so than their sentiment about the economy – that shape their confidence and their stress over debt. “It’s about what happens to me – my house, my car, my job,” he says.
People are whittling their debt.
The average amount owed on credit cards is $3,900, the poll said. That’s down from $5,600 in the fall and $4,900 last spring.
Families with incomes over $50,000 have sliced their credit card debt by more than half, yet their stress from debt hasn’t changed much – it’s moderately low. Families with incomes under $50,000, however, have added only slightly to their debt, but their stress level rose sharply.