Despite recent turblence in the stock market and weakness in housing, the majority of Americans are satisfied with their lives and are living at standards that are at or better than their expectations, a new CNBC poll revealed.
More than 70% of those surveyed said their current standard of living either "met" or "exceeded" their expectations, according to the results of the exclusive CNBC Wealth in America Report. One in three, or about 28%, felt their standard of living fell short.
But there were underlying worries about inflation, wage growth, gas prices and social security.
Those surveyed were most concerned about gas prices rising above the $3-mark, with 22% saying that could hurt their family's current financial condition. About 21% were concerned about the economy slipping into a recession.
Concerns about gas prices were most pronounced among those who earn less than $30,000 a year. Still, even among the wealthiest surveyed, or those earning more than $100,000 a year, gas prices remained a concern, with 10% saying that higher gas prices could hurt their financial situation.
However, for those making less than $30,000 a year, the possibility of the Social Security system going bankrupt was also among their chief concerns. But the wealthiest segment was more worried about a recession or tax increases.
Notably, only 3% of all participants said they were concerned about housing prices falling substantially.
“The report showed an air of realism in the market that was encouraging," said Thomas Melcer, chief investment officer at Hawthorn, the high-net-worth unit of PNC. “Most people grow up thinking that their house is going to go up in value. So the fact that 45% didn’t think their house would appreciate struck me as a realistic viewpoint.”
The results, which were reported on Power Lunch Wednesday by CNBC's Steve Liesman, found dramatic differences in the level of happiness and economic concerns between different income levels, gender, regions of the country and education.
About 61% of Americans rated their life between an 8 and a 10, with 10 being happiest rating on the scale. The happiest of the bunch were senior citizens and women over 50 years old. People in the south also tended to be happier than those living in other regions.
The most unhappy were people earning less than $30,000, African Americans, and those with no money invested in the stock market.
One reason for that could be that some Americans feel they are underemployed. Sixty-nine percent said their jobs use many or all of their abilities, but one in three believe they are in jobs that don't use their skills.
The survey found a direct correlation between economic happines and happiness on the job, but either way, the majority of those surveyed were generally pessimistic about the outlook for their wages.
Most people are expecting their wages will lose ground to inflation over the next year. Slightly more than half, 52%, thought their wages will rise over the next year, and then, only by a median of 2%.
By contrast, 75% of Americans think prices will rise. On average, those surveyed predict prices will rise an average of 4% for the goods they buy.
Despite the market's recent selloff, most investors surveyed expected the value of their stocks would be greater a year from now. Sixty percent thought the value would increase, but most had modest expectations, with just 51% saying they thought their portfolios would rise "just somewhat."
The survey, which polled more than 800 adults over this past weekend, will be conducted by CNBC on a quarterly basis. The questions were aimed at assessing people's views on a variety of economic issues.