Consumer Sentiment

American Families Are Financially Stretched Yet Optimistic

Most parents are contributing to retirement plans, far fewer are contributing to college savings plans

The MassMutual Consumer Spending & Saving Index tracks financial outlooks and behaviors in a changing economic environment. View the complete index findings here.

SPRINGFIELD, Mass.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Despite persistent economic headwinds, Americans are largely more confident about their financial futures than they were last quarter, according to the latest Consumer Spending & Saving Index from MassMutual. The quarterly survey captures consumers’ financial habits, beliefs and predictions in the current environment.

“It is heartening to observe how resilient the American people and economy are coming out of a year of uncertainty, persistent inflation, high interest rates, and evolving geopolitical tensions,” said Paul LaPiana, head of MassMutual brand, product and affiliated distribution. “Practicing solid money habits daily, including consistently saving, reducing debt, and building a diverse investment portfolio, are meaningful building blocks towards a financially secure future.”

Renewed Financial Optimism

A quarter of Americans feel optimistic about their finances vs. 19% last quarter, despite almost everyone noticing how expensive groceries are (91%).

 

  • Baby Boomers (27% Q1 2024 vs. 16% Q4 2023) and the Silent Generation (34% Q1 2024 vs. 16% Q4 2023) feel especially buoyant while Gen Z is stressed about their finances (43% Q1 2024 vs. 31% Q4 2023).
  • Far fewer Americans believe we are headed for a recession than a year ago (37% Q1 2024 vs. 52% Q1 2023).
    35% report that they will keep their financial feelings out of the voting booth during the upcoming presidential election.

Parents

Most parents are contributing to retirement plans and far fewer are contributing to 529 plans.

  • 80% of non-retired parents are making contributions to a retirement plan and 63% of those making contributions are contributing at least the minimum amount matched by an employer.
  • 28% of parents are contributing to a 529 plan to help save for a child’s college expenses.

Mothers Vs. Fathers

Moms handling their family’s finances often do so at their own expense, yet frequently feel underappreciated for their efforts.

  • Over half (56%) of mothers usually postpone self-care to address their family’s financial priorities vs. 31% of fathers.
  • Only 42% of mothers who have a role in handling their family’s finances say they feel “very appreciated” for doing so, compared to 54% of fathers.
  • 42% of mothers vs. 31% of fathers are delaying their own activities to give their kids lasting summer memories.

Less Fun In The Sun Expected this Summer

High prices are crimping families’ summer plans, with 68% of parents forgoing their own fun to afford their children’s activities.

  • 45% of parents with school-aged children adjusted their upcoming travel plans due to financial concerns, with half of them opting to cancel a planned trip altogether (50%).
  • Two in 10 parents (22%) with school-aged children make contributions to a dependent care flexible spending account plan, which could help them save for their children’s summer activities tax free.

The Subscription Economy

Younger people struggle to track their subscription spending compared with their older counterparts.

  • 71% of Americans have a general sense of how much they spend on monthly subscriptions, though only 40% know exactly what those services are. Nearly half of Gen Xers and Baby Boomers know precisely what they spend on monthly subscriptions compared with Gen Z (19%) and Millennials (37%).
  • Two in 10 Americans with recurring subscriptions spend money on services they rarely use (18%). This trend is most prevalent in younger people, despite reporting increased anxiety over their finances, with Gen Z (26%) and Millennials (27%) leading the pack (vs. 16% Gen X, 9% Baby Boomers).

 

 

 

Methodology
The MassMutual Consumer Spending & Saving Index tracks financial outlooks and behaviors in a changing economic environment. It offers an in-depth snapshot of people’s saving and spending behaviors and examines sentiment and attitudes toward navigating the changing state of the economy with an emphasis on inflation, spending, and changes in interest rates. Commissioned by MassMutual, the research was conducted online by PSB Insights from February 8 to 20, 2024 among a nationally representative sample of 1,000 U.S. adults (ages 18+). Research was also conducted with an additional sample of 500 adult Massachusetts residents from February 8 to 26, 2024.
About MassMutual (Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company)
MassMutual is a leading mutual life insurance company that is run for the benefit of its members and participating policyowners. Founded in 1851, the company has been continually guided by one consistent purpose: we help people secure their future and protect the ones they love. With a focus on delivering long-term value, MassMutual offers a wide range of protection, accumulation, wealth management, and retirement products and services. For more information, visit www.massmutual.com.