Optimism may be harder to come by these days. More than half of Americans surveyed in a Harris poll released Tuesday identified themselves as being lower-middle class or working class with low economic security. And 75 percent said they're being held back financially by roadblocks like the cost of housing (24 percent), health care (21 percent) and credit-card debt (20 percent).
And that's not the kicker.
"The most disappointing aspect is that 45 percent think they'll never get their finances back to where they were before the financial crisis," said Ken Rees, CEO of the Elevate credit service company, which commissioned the survey. "And a third are losing sleep over it."
They have reason to be pessimistic. A report Monday by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that the bottom 90 percent of income earners of the United States hit a high point in the 1980s, thanks to rising pension and housing wealth, then saw their financial status rise again during the 1990s tech-boom and the mid-2000s housing bubble, then drop significantly since.
For them, "wealth is not growing at all—it has actually been declining since the Great Recession," said Gabriel Zucman, who co-authored the working paper with Emmanuel Sanz.