54% of Americans Feel This Way About Their Finances
NEW YORK ( MainStreet) In 2007 when Diane Shelf was 35 years old, she felt the world was her oyster, because she had $15,000 in her 401(k) plan, a private sector job she thought was secure, a home in Virginia worth $120,000 and $50,000 worth invested in the stock market. Six years later, Shelf lost everything in the 2008 financial crisis, and it's been downhill ever since.
"I was downsized, the equity investments in my 401(k) plan and stock portfolio plummeted and I had to sell my house to cover my daily expenses," Shelf told MainStreet. The 41-year-old is now working as an emergency medical technician, which doesn't even pay half the $90,000 salary she enjoyed as the assistant to a hedge fund manager.
Shelf is one of the 54% of Americans who feel less financially secure now than they did five years ago, according to COUNTRY's Financial Security Index survey.
"The important thing is not to look back but to adjust to a new reality and redefine what financial security looks like in a perhaps permanently changed financial and economic landscape," said Troy Frerichs, director of investments-wealth management at COUNTRY Financial.
Prior to 2008, living the American Dream collectively meant financial security through investments, retirement savings, emergency savings and owning a home but these days 22% of Americans are feeling financially insecure as a result of a reduced retirement nest egg, 21% are concerned about a depleted emergency savings, 68% are stressed with having to cut back on spending to make ends meet and 8% are up at night worrying about reduced home value.
"The new normal for financial security centers around the individual's ability to plan and save for retirement," said Ron Grensteiner, chartered financial consultant and president of American Equity Investment Life Insurance Company. "In today's world of 401(k)s, IRAs and other self-directed retirement based plans, it is up to the individual to determine their financial security destiny. There are no more guarantees of lifetime pensions where the only requirement of the individual is to remain employed at a long term job and then retire."
About 41% of Americans say their financial situation is still recovering from the impact of the recession with 19% believing they will never recover, according to COUNTRY Financial's survey.
"Financial security is further away for most Americans because their ability to save money for retirement has diminished as a result of not seeing wage gains since the financial crisis," said Michael Farr, founder of Farr, Miller & Washington, which manages over $900 million in assets. "Because of the financial collapse and the stall of the economy, the Federal Reserve reduced interest rates to zero and kept them there. Corporations cut fat as much as they could, which increased unemployment. Six years later, we are reaching the outer bounds of that cost saving elasticity."