Americans’ personal financial satisfaction sees record rebound

By Courtney L. Vien

Reflecting the economic volatility Americans have experienced this year, the AICPA’s Personal Financial Satisfaction Index saw its highest-ever quarterly growth in the third quarter of 2020, rising 16.5 points, marking a 99% increase from the last quarter. In the second quarter of 2020, the PFSi experienced its largest-ever quarterly drop, falling 18.5 points, a 55% decline from the first quarter. The PFSi now stands at 33.1, 10.2% (3.8 points) lower than it was in the third quarter of 2019.

A marked decline in underemployment was the largest factor behind the PFSi’s quarterly growth. Underemployment fell 35% (37.1 points) from last quarter. However, underemployment is still 117% (37.1 points) higher than it was at this time last year.

Job openings also increased 36.6% (19.5 points) over last quarter but are 10% lower than they were in the third quarter of last year.

The CPA Outlook Index, a measure of CPA executives’ impressions of the economy and their organizations’ economic health, rose 88.9% (14.8 points) from last quarter, though it remains 34.6% lower than in the third quarter of 2019. The PFS 750, a proprietary stock index, increased 9.1% (8.7 points) over last quarter to attain a record high.

“As Americans continue to navigate the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important to remember that the fundamentals of financial planning haven’t changed,” Dave Stolz, CPA/PFS, chair of the AICPA’s PFS Credential Committee, said in a press release. “Though the stock market’s record performance is encouraging, 2020 has served as a reminder of the volatile nature of markets.”

Personal taxes rose by 50.5% (14.5 points) over last quarter, while loan delinquencies increased by 6.4% (1.6 points) and home equity rose by 2.2% (1.6 points). Inflation remained flat.

About the PFSi

The PFSi is a propriety economic indicator calculated each quarter by the AICPA. The PFSi consists of the difference between two subindexes: the Personal Financial Pleasure Index and the Personal Financial Pain Index. The Personal Financial Pleasure Index measures four components: the PFS 750, a proprietary stock index based on the 750 largest companies trading in the U.S. market; the CPA Outlook Index, which measures CPA executives’ sentiments toward the economy and their organizations’ prospects; job openings; and home equity. The Personal Financial Pain Index also consists of four components: underemployment, personal taxes, loan delinquencies, and inflation. For more information about the PFSi, visit aicpa.org/PFSi.

Courtney L. Vien (Courtney.Vien@aicpa-cima.com) is a JofA senior editor.

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