As the Dow nears hitting 17,000 after dropping to 6,626 back on March 2, 2009, you would think there would be mass euphoria and an upbeat feeling among you and your peers.
Surprisingly, I don’t see or feel it. But, why is that?
Shouldn’t everyone be feeling fantastic about their financial situation with such an incredible stock market rebound? Many who have saved have seen a great uptick in their accounts. For example, Vanguard reports the average 401(k) account balance rose from $56,000 in 2008 to $102,000 in 2013.
Take a look at the Consumer Confidence Index, which is a general measurement of how people feel about the economy. Today, the index stands at 83 in comparison to the peak of the dot-com boom in 2000 where the index registered as high as 144.7.
Let me take a shot at explaining why the excitement is not prevalent.
First, it is important to understand that most adults in this country have very little money in the stock market and are more concerned about finding or keeping their job/paycheck. Millions of Americans have even given up looking for work. At 62.8 percent, the so-called participation rate/working adults matches the lowest since March 1978.
Overall household income has seen about a 6% dip since March 2009 to the current median figure of $52,959 (after adjusting for inflation). That’s my number one indicator of economic health and it is a remarkable bad trend. So, despite the trillions of dollars the federal government is spending (that has propped up the stock market and kept interest rates low), the median family wage has been going down since 2009!
While incomes have decreased, let’s take a look at the cost of fuel. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, a gallon of gas went from $2.40 in 2009 to $3.57 in 2013. For someone commuting to work each day, their gas expense could increase by $1,500 per year!
And what about medical care? An employee’s share of annual premiums for family coverage has increased from $2,412 in 2003 to $4,565 in 2013, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. Obama Quietly Dissolves Obamacare
Did I mention the cost of college? The anxiety due to this has to weigh on the minds of many adults and kids that are strapped with five and six figure debt. College: Good News, Bad News
Low interest rates are great for those taking out home loans, but are killing the yields that seniors need to derive income from there interest rate investments.
And the last and possibly greatest reason for a lack of euphoria is the lack of confidence that positive change (dare I say HOPE) is coming anytime soon. Our country seems to be doubling down on the strategies that have led us to where we are today as noted in the latest idea of allowing more people (less than credit worthy people) to borrow for college and minimize or ultimately forgive their student loan debt over time.
When I asked my mother how she would describe her overall mood, she answered “scared.” My mood is one of “cautious.”
What word(s) would you use to describe your overall feelings?