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Smith Barney myFi Survey: Heading to the Polls, Americans Think Financial Crisis is Halfway Over – But They’re in No Mood to Invest


New York – If the current financial crisis were a baseball game, the typical American thinks we’re at the end of the fifth inning, according to a recent survey of 5,000 people conducted for myFi, short for “my financial life,” a new financial service from Citi. myFi is part of Citigroup Global Markets Inc. (member SIPC).

In the study, Americans seem to blame the crisis partly on excessive consumer spending – and many are looking to cut back:

* 63% say they’ll spend less on holiday gifts this year.
* 61% plan to reduce spending on major purchases over the next 12 months.
* 56% are looking to spend less on travel and vacations.
* 61% say they will eat out less.

“If Americans follow through on their plans, we could see a big drop in spending,” notes Jonathan Clements, myFi’s Director of Financial Guidance. “What will Americans do with the money they don’t spend? It looks like they’re happy to hang onto the cash. The survey suggests Americans don’t plan to invest.”

Indeed, on the eve of the presidential election, investors are notably gloomy. According to the myFi survey, people who think this is a good time to put their money in a coffee can (49%) outnumber those who think this is a good time to buy stocks (32%), invest overseas (11%) or buy certificates of deposit (32%). Moreover, just 59% feel safe keeping their money with their financial institution and just 29% think this is a good time to buy a car.

“This is classic investor behavior,” Clements say. “When stock prices dive, people grow more risk averse, just when many should grow more aggressive. This is a time when many investors should be sticking to their investment plan and even consider adding to their holdings, not dumping at market lows.”

Who’s responsible for the current mess? There’s plenty of blame to go around. Among those surveyed, 72% blame the financial crisis on excessive spending by American consumers, 64% blame Wall Street, 62% blame excessive borrowing by homeowners and 59% blame the federal government.

“Americans may be pointing fingers at Wall Street and at the federal government,” says Clements. “But they’re also inclined to blame their neighbors – and maybe themselves.”

The survey uncovered some good news. Though the housing market continues to struggle, 51% believe this is a good time to purchase a home. Americans also remain fairly confident about their own finances. While a mere 3% think the U.S. economy is doing well, 51% think their “personal economy” is faring just fine.

Still, the survey suggests that tumbling markets and slowing economic growth have made Americans less confident about their finances:

* 53% now say they are uncomfortable with their ability to cope financially if they couldn’t work for six months, versus 50% in July.
* 55% say they aren’t confident they are saving enough, versus 50% in July.
* 38% aren’t comfortable that their job is secure and that their income will rise over time, versus 34% in July.
* 47% aren’t confident they could cope financially if the markets suffered a big decline, versus 43% in July.

The myFi survey was conducted online by Synovate in October 2008. The July 2008 survey was also conducted by Synovate and also included 5,000 participants. Additional data is available.


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