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Americans' top financial priority is keeping up with bills

Staff writer |
Americans' top financial priority is staying current or getting caught up on bills, according to a new Bankrate.com report. That was cited nearly twice as often as the second-most common response (paying down debt).

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More than one in three Americans (36%) say they are most concerned with bills, followed by paying down debt (20%), savings (18%) and providing financial assistance to family members or friends (12%).

As a result of these longstanding challenges, consumers' financial priorities haven't changed much over the past year. In November 2012, 32% of Americans said their top financial priority was staying current or getting caught up on bills, 23% said paying down debt and 20% said savings.

Bankrate.com's Financial Security Index registered a 99.3 in November; readings below 100 indicate deteriorating financial security compared with one year previous. Americans are feeling most negative about job security and savings.

Those who feel less secure in their jobs now versus one year ago (20%) outnumber those who feel more secure (17%). Job security turned negative in October, and remained negative in November, after spending eight of the first nine months of 2013 in positive territory.

For the 36th consecutive month (every single month since the inception of Bankrate.com's monthly Financial Security Index polls in December 2010), Americans who feel less comfortable with their savings outnumber those who feel more comfortable compared to one year previous. The current margin is greater than two-to-one in favor of "less comfortable."

Net worth is the bright spot of financial security, with 29% of consumers reporting higher net worth and just 16% reporting lower net worth than one year ago. Given the improving housing market and strong stock market performance, it is not surprising that the propensity to report higher net worth increases with income. The survey was conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International (PSRAI).