If Americans are feeling better about their finances, it certainly is not because of the stock market. The AICPA's market index hit an all-time high in 2014's fourth quarter as the S&P 500 gained more than 11 percent for the year. It finished 2015 unchanged in the wake of year-end weakness in energy stocks.
But loan delinquencies have fallen markedly, with TransUnion forecasting the national mortgage loan serious delinquency rate at 2.5 percent for the end of 2015. Meanwhile, home-equity values have risen, the association found. Underemployment is also waning as strong jobs reports have piled up. And inflation worries have plummeted, with the inflation component of the financial pain index dropping 68 percent during 2015.
Williams predicted that the Federal Reserve, which raised rates in December for the first time in nearly a decade, would follow that move with additional gradual increases over the next several years, which should continue to keep inflation in check without dramatic moves.
"They're going to boil the frog slowly," he said.