More Americans live paycheck-to-paycheck

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(MoneyWatch) Roughly 38 percent of Americans live paycheck-to-paycheck, while just 30 percent are economically comfortable, according to a study released Monday by the Consumer Federation of America and Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards. That's a reversal of fortunes from 1997, when roughly 38 percent of the country said they felt financially comfortable and only 31 percent were living on the economic edge.

Additionally, roughly 66 percent of those surveyed this year don't expect to have enough money to retire at age 65, versus 50 percent in 1997.

In 1997 more Americans were also saving for college, with some 56 percent of those surveyed saying they were setting money away for their kids' college bills vs. 48 percent who are saving for college today.

Other survey findings:

- 55 percent of respondents said it's hard to know who to trust when seeking financial advice.

- 52 percent think investing is complicated.

- 55 percent are worried about losing their money in the stock market - up from 45 percent in 1997.

It's understandable that people would have trust issues in an era marred with revelations about massive financial planning Ponzi schemes, from Bernie Madoff to Peregrine Financial.

However, those who spent the time to put together a financial plan - with or without help - reported better financial health than those who didn't. Confidence about meeting goals, from saving money to paying off debts, soared to 52 percent vs. 30 percent among those who had a financial plan, the survey found.

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