If you're feeling a little less stressed about your household finances, you have the housing market to thank. But your stress level may start rising again this year.
A rise in the value of your home doesn't translate directly into cash you can spend to pay the bills. But it does add to your real wealth, which makes those bills feel a little less stressful.
That's why the recent strong rise in home prices accounted for most of the improvement in the Household Financial Stress index tracked by economists at PNC Financial. After peaking in the depths of the Great Recession, the latest reading from the index continues to fall, according to the Pittsburgh-based bank.
Home prices have been on a tear, surging by 13.4 percent last year, according to the latest reading from the S&P/Case-Shiller 20-city home price index. After bottoming out two years ago, the widely followed index has risen 24 percent.
(Read more: Home prices end 2013 on strong footing:Case-Shiller)
From that trough, the total market value of real estate held by households and nonprofits has risen by $3.5 trillion, or about half of what was lost when house prices began their historical collapse in late 2006, according to Federal Reserve data.
Big gains in stock prices also have boosted household wealth, and banks are gradually more willing to lend.