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CBA And AOL Finance Optimism Index Shows How Unemployment, Gas Prices And The Government Affect Consumers’ Outlook On Personal Finances

Research from the Finance Optimism Index launched today by the Consumer Bankers Association (CBA) and AOL Inc. (AOL) shows that Americans are less concerned about their current financial situation since the end of the government shutdown in October 2013.

Together with the CBA, AOL has been conducting research over the past year to better understand consumer attitudes about their finances. For the CBA, this is an effort to find ways to improve the financial well-being of consumers, and for AOL, to offer quality content and tools to marketers.

The CBA and AOL will follow the level of financial optimism in America over time, delving into what influences the ups and downs of this attitude, including economic and political events and the news cycle.

“This new project with AOL represents an opportunity to understand the current personal finance attitudes of American consumers. No other index is providing this unique information which will help our members and the retail banking industry anticipate consumer needs and concerns,” said Richard Hunt, President and CEO of CBA.

Additional findings include:
  • October 2013 - Americans’ level of financial optimism was low, with the Index at -24. The news about the government shutdown was negative, and Americans were worried about how the current political and economic situation would affect their personal finances.
  • November 2013 - The Index increased by 16 points to -8. News became more positive, and Americans were less worried about how the current economic and political situation would affect their personal finances.
  • In December 2013 - The Index remained flat at -8.
  • January 2014 - The Index increased again to +4, and marked the first time the Index was positive. The increase was driven by Americans seeing more positive news about personal finances. The results could also mark the impact of rising stock prices and a decline in the unemployment rate.
  • I n February 2014 - In February 2014, the Index declined to -2.6, a drop of 6.6. The decrease in financial optimism was mainly driven by a perception that news about Americans’ personal finances wasn’t as positive. Possible factors include the slow start to the month in the stock market and rising prices for gasoline.

The Finance Optimism Index tracks optimism through agreement with 4 statements in a survey:

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