Financial Discipline Grows 5 Years After Crisis

By MARK JEWELL

BOSTON (AP) â¿¿ The frugality and investing discipline that the 2008 financial crisis imposed on Americans appear to have led to permanent changes in behavior on money matters, according to a survey by the nation's second largest mutual fund company.

Spendthrift ways are unlikely to again become as pervasive as they were before the crisis, Fidelity Investments concluded Wednesday in releasing results of its "Five Years After" survey of nearly 1,200 investors.

Positive behaviors that appear to be now entrenched include saving more in 401(k) plans, paying down debt and taking greater care to invest wisely.

"These tend to be very sticky decisions, because you begin to budget and spend around a higher savings rate," said John Sweeney, an executive vice president on retirement and investing with Boston-based Fidelity. "People are taking control of their financial lives, and control breeds confidence."

Survey participants were interviewed over two weeks in February, nearly five years after the government-brokered rescue sale of Wall Street firm Bear Stearns to JPMorgan Chase. That event, in March 2008, is regarded as a tipping point for more the tumultuous upheavals that followed, including the September 2008 collapse of Lehman Brothers, which the government allowed to fail.

Housing prices plunged, unemployment spiked and stocks tumbled more than 50 percent from the market's October 2007 high to its March 2009 low. It wasn't until last month that the Dow Jones industrial average returned to its pre-crisis high.

Key survey findings include:

â¿¿ Fifty-six percent reported their financial outlooks changed from feeling scared or confused at the beginning of the crisis to confident or prepared five years later.

â¿¿ Survey participants estimated their household had lost 34 percent of the value of their total assets, on average, at the low point of the crisis. Thirty-five percent experienced what they considered to be a large drop in income, and 17 percent said at least one head of their household lost a job.

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