Two-thirds of U.S. consumers do not expect their personal finances to improve in 2022, with slightly more than half of this group citing inflation as the barrier to a better money situation, according to Bankrate's December Financial Security Index.
Inflation surged 6.8% in November, putting it at a 39-year high as prices climbed for food, housing and energy.
"Inflation worries have dragged consumer confidence to a decade low and is the top reason Americans don't expect their finances to improve, and particularly to get worse," says Greg McBride, Bankrate's chief financial analyst. "This feeling goes far beyond gas prices, as inflation has broadened out and consumers see higher prices at every turn."
Other top reasons given by those who don't expect financial improvement in 2022 include the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, stagnant or declining wages, personal debt and changing interest rates. Of the one-third of the personal finance survey respondents who expect their money situation to improve in the coming year, 46% attribute their optimism to making more money at work and 36% chalk it up to having less debt.
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is one of the chief reasons people expect their personal finances not to improve in 2022, according to the survey, which was conducted after the omicron variant emerged.
With the country about to enter Year Three of the pandemic, rising prices and supply-chain issues are causes for concern, and some people continue to put off financial milestones as a result.
Political partisanship is a reason many U.S. consumers anticipate their finances won't improve in 2022, the survey found. Those who expected their money situation to worsen or stay the same laid the blame on political leaders in Washington at a rate of 57% and 25%, respectively.
Optimism about improved finances in 2022 is highest among Generation Z, those born from 1997 to 2012, and diminishes with each successive older generation, based on Bankrate's survey findings.
Levels of financial optimism also varied by geographic region, with Westerners having the most positive outlook (40%) and Midwesterners having the least positive (28%).
When it comes to financial goals, 20% of survey respondents most commonly mentioned paying down debt as a priority. Beefing up emergency savings was cited by 14%, while sticking better to a budget was cited by 13%.
Nearly one-fifth of respondents, however, said they have no financial goals.
Bankrate commissioned YouGov to conduct the survey, which was carried out online Nov. 29-Dec. 1. The total sample size was 2,450 adults. Figures have been weighted and are representative of all U.S. adults.
Bennett is a writer for Bankrate.com, an online provider of bank and interest rate information.