Home Economics in 2018 - how we feel and what's impacting our family finances the most
Bottom line: This isn't about learning how to set a proper place setting or sew shorts (I had fun doing that as I recall). It's about how we're doing as we wrap up the first quarter of the year. Pew Research just wrapped up a comprehensive study that provided a really good peak at what's up in our wallets. First, and foremost, we're feeling the best about the economy that we have in nearly two decades.
53% say the economy is at least good, if not excellent, currently
It's the first time that over half of Americans have rated the economy as at least good since 2001. That's up from just over 40% a year ago and 31% from two years ago. So yes, most Americans do feel at least good about the economy right now and clearly there's greater participation than is often being discussed in the media as levels have more than doubled where we were just a few years ago. So, if most Americans finally feel good about the economy what's having a big impact on our personal finances right now?
Prices of food and staples: 48%
Gas prices: 37%
Real Estate values: 37%
Job options: 34%
Budget deficit 22%
Stock market: 21%
There are some interesting answers and concerns. Some of those are cited as positives to improving finances while others are major concerns, none the least of which is healthcare which is still the biggest financial concern of most Americans. Among those categories these are the ones that are generally negatives in our lives:
Budget deficit (it's not as odd as it may sound - we're paying higher interest rates in part due to this)
These are generally positives right now:
Prices of staples
Real Estate Values
What's clear is that meaningful healthcare reform is still a huge need and issue. In fact, for many families, the benefit of the tax cuts has been wiped out by the increase in healthcare costs once again this year. There's far more good news than not but the biggest negative issue of a few years ago is still the biggest issue today and other than an end of the individual mandate which passed at the end of last year - it's highly unlikely any additional reforms will be coming anytime soon. With the end of the individual mandate does come opportunity however... I've been advocating for the end of the "insurance first model" where we lack service and price transparency. With the end of the individual mandate you at least have a choice of how to go about paying for heath care and what health insurance coverage you'd prefer. It's my hope more people will opt to pay for regular services directly and use insurance for major medical needs. That'd go a long way towards improving transparency and creating cost competitiveness in the marketplace.