How inflation is affecting Americans’ financial New Year’s resolutions

New years are associated with fresh starts, but many Americans don’t see the pressure on their wallets getting any better in 2023.

Even with some recent hints at price relief — like a cooler than expected November inflation report and falling gas prices — a new survey shows the gloom that’s settling in for consumers.

Nearly three in 10 people, 29%, are bracing for their personal finances to deteriorate next year, according to findings from Bankrate.com. Another 36% of survey participants don’t foresee their finances improving next year.

When Bankrate asked the question last year, just over a quarter, 26%, said their finances would worsen while 42% said their finances would be around the same in 2022.

Another look at consumer mood adds to the gloom: Nearly two in 10 people (18%) expect their financial situation to worsen in 2023, according to an Allianz Life survey released days ahead of Bankrate’s findings. The 18% is up from the 12% who told Allianz last year that they thought their finances would slip in 2022.

A third view of consumer mood stacks it on. Four in 10 Americans think their finances have grown worse in the last year and around one-third (36%) said their financial situation will improve next year, Deloitte said in an ongoing gauge of consumers’ views.

Inflation concerns powered the pessimism in both surveys, coming when the drumbeat of a potential 2023 recession keeps pounding.

After the Federal Reserve announced its latest interest rate hike Dec. 14 to address inflation — a 50 basis point increase after four 75-basis point increases — Chairman Jerome Powell said the chance of having a recession was “not knowable.”

“I don’t think anyone knows whether we’re going to have a recession or not and, if we do, whether it’s going to be a deep one or not,” he said in a press conference following the central bank’s announcement.

Signs of easing inflation rates in the October and November inflation reports were “a welcome reduction in the monthly pace of price increases. But it will take substantially more evidence to give confidence that inflation is on a sustained downward path,” Powell noted at the press conference.

The Bankrate and Allianz polls appear to be downbeat, but both show consumers are actively trying to solidify their household finances.

When it comes to financial resolutions for next year, the mix of goals all point at the wear and tear of high costs.

Paying down debt will be the top financial goal for next year, according to the Bankrate survey. Nearly two in 10 people (19%) made that their top goal, 16% said better budgeting, and 13% said more money for emergency savings.

People in the Allianz study named building up emergency savings as their top financial goal (21%) while paying off credit cards (17%) and increasing retirement savings (14%) were the second and third goals.

Whatever a person’s goals are, it may be tough, but not impossible to nudge forward right now. Almost half of people, 44%, in the Deloitte research say they are making progress towards their financial goals.

While the clock ticks on 2022, federal lawmakers in Washington DC are focusing on whether they can hatch a legislative deal in an omnibus spending bill.

One potential piece of legislation that could go along for the ride is geared at improving Americans’ retirement savings. Portions of the so-called “SECURE 2.0” legislation could address rules on required minimum distributions, catch-up contributions and more.

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