RISMEDIA, September 14, 2010--Despite the economy's sluggish recovery, a new national survey from Weber Shandwick with KRC Research found that nearly seven in 10 Americans (69 percent) have an optimistic outlook about their household finances for the next two years. Nearly one quarter (23 percent) are very optimistic.
Since the downturn two years ago, the vast majority of Americans (81 percent) say they are more responsible with their household's money today than two years ago, with nearly half (46 percent) considering themselves much more responsible. Many indicated they've changed their financial habits, including buying items on sale (80 percent), becoming more concerned about saving money (78 percent) and learning how to budget better (68 percent). In fact, Americans say they are more likely today to be "saving as much as possible" than before the financial downturn (42 percent vs. 33 percent, respectively).
Moreover, six in 10 report they are likely to continue the savings and spending patterns they started when the downturn began as soon as the economy recovers.
Women, on average, are more optimistic than men about their household financial future over the next two years (72 percent vs. 65 percent, respectively), more likely than men to have turned to family for help managing their finances over the past two years (59 percent vs. 50 percent), and more likely than men to feel in more control of their household's financial destiny today compared to two years ago (35 percent vs. 27 percent).
Few Americans relied on the help of an expert over the last two years. The survey found that a small segment leaned more than usual on financial advisors (19 percent) or their banks (17 percent) to help manage their household budget or finances.
"On the second anniversary of the financial collapse, Americans have a mostly positive outlook on their financial futures although many report not feeling in control just yet. Interestingly, few have turned to professional resources for help. This begs the question of what can be done differently by financial institutions, advisors and others to effectively promote the resources available to empower Americans," said Barbara Iverson, president of Weber Shandwick's Financial Services practice group.
Financial services organizations should consider how they can turn their customers' optimism into empowerment by helping them budget better and making financial advisors more available to answer questions. Engaging customers online may be one area for the financial industry to further explore. While only 17 percent of Americans in the survey reported using social media during the past two years to obtain information on managing their finances, the nationwide trend of social media usage is rising exponentially.
"Done well, a social media presence puts a face on an organization and helps engender trust, confidence and a sense of community," Iverson said. "Building a strong following on networks such as Facebook and Twitter can also help financial services organizations address customer dissatisfaction and mistrust. In our survey, nine percent of Americans posted or tweeted comments or complaints about their finances online. While these 'badvocates' represent a small group, their potential to cause damage to their financial institutions could be considerable."