MassMutual Consumer Spending & Saving Index: Is optimism replacing fear as Americans navigate today’s economy?

March 7th, 2023

Springfield, Mass. – In contrast to last quarter, ongoing uncertainty about the trajectory of the U.S. economy has not dampened many Americans’ optimism about their financial futures despite rising interest rates, persistent inflation, and stock market volatility according to this quarter’s Consumer Spending & Saving Index from Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual).

Most notably:

  • Americans are less concerned about inflation compared with last quarter (59% vs. 63%) and fewer believe that the economy will worsen in the next three months compared with last quarter (52% vs. 57%). The number who say the economy will stay the same has increased, suggesting respondents think the economy has bottomed out (24% vs. 18%).
  • Among Americans who are expecting a tax refund, the number who say they would be very inconvenienced if their refund is delayed decreased from 38% last year to 28% this year, while 35% would not be at all inconvenienced if their refund was delayed this year compared to 27% last year, suggesting that more people are feeling more financially secure.
  • More than half of Americans are still delaying purchases due to inflation; however, this is less than last quarter (55% vs. 59%). The most common purchase being delayed: a car.

“It is uplifting to see a spirit of resilience amongst the American population despite a softening in the U.S. economy and corresponding financial uncertainty,” said Mike Fanning, head of MassMutual U.S. “Staying vigilant by practicing sound financial habits is key to navigating this stubborn inflationary environment. Consumers who have already taken steps to save and invest wisely may be best positioned.”

Other key findings of the MassMutual Consumer Spending & Saving Index include:

Americans are more optimistic about the U.S. economy.

  • Many reported feeling increasingly confident that a potential recession would not adversely impact their day-to-day finances compared with last quarter (50% vs. 42%).
  • Fewer believe the U.S. is in a recession this quarter (51%) than last quarter (60%). This sentiment is driven by Gen X and Baby Boomers, who are considerably more optimistic than they were last quarter.
  • Among Gen X, 53% believe the U.S. is currently in a recession, down from 67% last quarter. Among Baby Boomers, 45% believe the U.S. is currently in a recession, down from 58% last quarter.

Older generations are more optimistic about their financial future than younger generations.

  • 34% of Americans overall report feeling anxious about their personal finances, down from 41% last quarter. This decrease is driven by Gen X (41% vs. 49%) and Baby Boomers (25% vs. 40%), while Gen Z (46% vs. 44%) and Millennials (38% vs. 36%) are just as stressed as they were last quarter.
  • Americans’ views on their financial futures are less polarized, with fewer respondents feeling “very optimistic” today versus last quarter (13% vs. 18%) and a corresponding increase in respondents feeling “somewhat optimistic” today versus last quarter (49% vs. 41%).

Nearly half of Americans said they would be able to pay a surprise bill of $400 easily, however, younger generations would have the most difficulty in affording this expense.

  • 46% of Americans said they would be able to pay a surprise bill of $400 easily, while 33% said it would be a big hit, and 21% said they could not pay it at all.
  • Younger Americans (Gen Z, Millennials) are much more likely to say paying the bill would be a big hit, or that they could not pay the bill, than older Americans (Baby Boomers, Silent Generation).

As tax season approaches, fewer Americans are anticipating receiving a tax refund, possibly due to the expiration of the Advance Child Tax Credit and COVID-19 stimulus programs.

  • The number who say they are expecting a tax refund decreased from 56% last year to 47% this year, while the number who say they are not expecting a refund increased from 28% last year to 34% this year.

One third of younger generations (Gen Z, Millennial and Gen X) reported that they do not contribute to a retirement plan every month.

  • However, Gen Z (42%) and Millennials (39%) are more likely than Baby Boomers (19%) and the Silent Generation (12%) to say that their largest source of income in retirement will come from a qualified retirement plan, such as a 401(k) or 403(b).

“Making good financial decisions can start at any age, and those who start when they’re younger may have more options available to them and be in better financial health over the longer term. Whatever you do, be informed and be thoughtful about your choices,” added Fanning.

Methodology

The MassMutual Consumer Spending & Saving Index tracks financial outlooks and behaviors in a changing economic environment. It offers an in-depth snapshot of people’s saving and spending behaviors and examines sentiment and attitudes toward navigating the financial impacts of the pandemic and the changing state of the economy with an emphasis on inflation, changes in interest rates and spending. Commissioned by MassMutual, the research was conducted online by PSB Insights from February 2-16, 2023, among a nationally representative sample of 1,000 U.S. adults (ages 18+) as well as an additional sample of 500 adult Massachusetts residents.

 

About MassMutual
MassMutual is a leading mutual life insurance company that is run for the benefit of its members and participating policyowners. Founded in 1851, the company has been continually guided by one consistent purpose: we help people secure their future and protect the ones they love. With a focus on delivering long-term value, MassMutual offers a wide range of protection, accumulation, wealth management and retirement products and services. For more information, visit www.massmutual.com.