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Americans more optimistic despite 'mild improvements' in well-being: Fed survey

Americans took a more optimistic outlook on their economic future last year despite only "mild improvements" in their well-being, a U.S. Federal Reserve survey released Wednesday found.

More than 40 percent of respondents said they were "somewhat" or "much" better off than in 2013. The percent of individuals surveyed who felt they were worse off also fell.

Almost a third of respondents believed their income would be higher this year than last, compared to 21 percent in the year before.

Shoppers walk along Lexington Avenue in the eastern Midtown section of Manhattan in New York City.
Getty Images
Shoppers walk along Lexington Avenue in the eastern Midtown section of Manhattan in New York City.

Still, the central bank found pain points in examining factors including housing, savings, student loans and retirement, among others. The most common reason for renters not being able to afford a home was inability to pay a down payment.

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Nearly half of part-time workers said they would prefer to work more hours at their current wage. While 63 percent of respondents noted that they had saved at least some money in the year leading up to the survey, 20 percent said they spent more than they made in that period.

Roughly 40 percent of non-retirees had given little or no thought to retirement planning, while 31 percent had no retirement savings or pension.

Other findings include:

  • Sixty-five percent of those surveyed said their families were "doing okay" or "living comfortably," a slight improvement from the previous year.
  • Nearly half of respondents said they could not cover an emergency expense of $400 or more, or would afford it by selling something or borrowing.
  • About one-third reported forgoing medical care because it was too expensive.
  • Roughly a quarter of adults said they have some form of education debt.
  • A higher percentage of Americans with a household income exceeding $100,000 expect income to rise than those with a household income under $40,000.

About 5,900 responded to the survey, which the Fed conducted last October. It emphasized surveying individuals with incomes under $40,000 to accurately compare demographics.

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