NEW YORK (MainStreet) — For many on Main Street, the arrival of the Christmas season is equated with stress and careful budgeting. Gone are the days when small businesses and companies could dish out bonus checks automatically around the holidays. Given the prolonged lull in the economy, your lack of bonus may not be pegged at all to your performance.

Wharton finance professor Michael Roberts says the unpredictable future of the economy is making the company Santa tighten his budgetary belt.

"There is still a great deal of economic, political, and legal uncertainty - domestically and internationally - that is hampering economic growth," Roberts said. "By now a fair amount of empirical evidence shows that this heightened uncertainty adversely affects employment and compensation decisions, not to mention investment and consumption."

Meanwhile, publicly traded corporations had an incredibly solid year. Fortune 500 companies are posting over and over record high earnings, and combined with QE3 the Dow Jones and other indexes are reaching record highs. However, the investors on Wall Street are different than they were 20 years ago. After 2008, small business owners hesitated over investing or lost so much money they could not get back in the game.

James Russo, senior vice president of global consumer insight at Nielsen, says the small business owners aren't the ones raking in cash from the bull market.

"There is a disconnect between Wall Street and Main Street," he said. "Despite strong gains in the equity markets, housing recovery, job growth and moderating gas prices, in the latest Nielsen survey of consumers in the U.S., nearly 70% of consumers say we are still in a recession. Over four years from the bottom in June of 2009, and consumers are still feeling the pain. Further, 20% believe we will not be out of this recession in the next 12 months. The point is that clearly it is not a rising tide lifting all boats."

Many Main Street business owners who might have issued holiday bonus checks fifteen years ago now fall into this near 70% figure. They are still struggling the same way they were three years ago despite all the positive news that has come out of the financial sector.

"The positive economic news is not working its way through consumers segments," Russo said. "In our 2013 survey, 52% of U.S. consumers are stating they can only afford the basics while 48% are living comfortably or spending freely."

So while trying to make the Christmas magic work, the common consumer will be all the more cash-strapped. "Where is my bonus check?" may be a common question this year at malls across America.

--Written by Leigh Held for MainStreet