CBA and AOL Finance Optimism Index Shows How Unemployment, Gas Prices and the Government Affect Consumers’ Outlook on Personal Finances

April 1, 2014

National Harbor, MD (April 1, 2014) – 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.
  • In 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: 

  1. I am optimistic about my personal financial future.
  2. I am worried about my current financial situation.
  3. The news I’ve been hearing in the past few weeks about Americans’ personal finances has been generally positive.
  4. I am worried that the current economic and political situation is going to affect my personal finances.

The Index is calculated as the percentage of respondents who are optimistic minus the percentage of respondents who are pessimistic. Index values above 0 indicate more respondents felt optimistic than pessimistic, and Index values below 0 indicate more respondents felt pessimistic than optimistic. Survey questions are asked to a random national sample of approximately 1,600 U.S. Online Adults Ages 18+ every month in the AOL/Ipsos MediaCT Brand Tracking Survey.

“Our partnership with the CBA on the Finance Optimism Index will bring actionable insights to increase the level of financial optimism in this country. The Index will be a valuable resource for banks’ financial education and marketing initiatives,” said Paul Kadin, AOL’s Head of Category Development.

Other indexes that track consumer sentiment focus on economic and business conditions, with less emphasis on how Americans perceive their own personal financial situation. The Finance Optimism Index differs in that it measures the level of financial optimism of individual Americans through their responses to four survey questions and explores factors that influence these attitudes.  

The Index is measured continuously with results calculated and reported monthly

About CBA

The Consumer Bankers Association (CBA) is the trade association for today's leaders in retail banking - banking services geared toward consumers and small businesses. The nation's largest financial institutions, as well as many regional banks, are CBA corporate members, collectively holding two-thirds of the industry's total assets. CBA’s mission is to preserve and promote the retail banking industry as it strives to fulfill the financial needs of the American consumer and small business.

About AOL

AOL Inc. (NYSE: AOL) is a brand company, committed to continuously innovating, growing, and investing in brands and experiences that inform, entertain, and connect the world. The home of a world-class collection of premium brands, AOL creates original content that engages audiences on a local and global scale. We help marketers connect with these audiences through effective and engaging digital advertising solutions.