Personal Finance

More Americans are pessimistic about their money, and they blame Washington

Key Points
  • Most Americans — 55 percent — do not think their financial situations will improve in 2019, according to a new survey.
  • That survey was conducted before the government shutdown, and could point to lingering frustration following the Great Recession.
  • An overwhelming majority of individuals — 89 percent — plan to attack at least one financial goal this year.
  • For millennials, finding a higher-paying job is a priority. Gen Xers and baby boomers want to ramp up their retirement savings.
A demonstrator holds a 'Stop The Shutdown' sign during a rally with union members and federal employees to end the partial government shutdown outside the White House in Washington, D.C.
Andrew Harrer | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Most Americans do not think their financial situation will improve in 2019. And those who are pessimistic largely blame one source: leadership in Washington.

A majority of Americans, 55 percent, do not think their financial situations will be better in 2019 compared to 2018. Of those individuals, 12 percent think their finances will be worse and 44 percent believe they will stay the same.

At the same time, 44 percent of those surveyed think things will get better for them this year.

The online survey from personal finance website was conducted in mid-December — well before the federal government shutdown. It included 1,000 individuals ages 18 and up.

The partial government shutdown began on Dec. 22. The political impasse has left 800,000 federal workers without pay. It now holds the record for the longest shutdown in U.S. history.

Of those who think their finances will be worse, most blame political leaders, as indicated by 49 percent of respondents, followed by cost-of-living increases, more debt, less income from savings or investments, rising interest rates and less income at work.

U.S. government shutdown about to become longest on record
U.S. government shutdown about to become longest on record

The pessimistic sentiment could be a hangover from the financial crisis 10 years ago, according to Mark Hamrick, senior economic analyst at

"One of the long-running themes of the U.S. economy [has been] income inequality, as well as the damage that was done by the financial crisis and Great Recession," Hamrick said. "Some of those undercurrents continue to shape what we're experiencing today."

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Those who are optimistic about 2019 mostly did not credit Washington politicians, according to the survey. Instead, they cited other reasons, such as making more money, with 52 percent, followed by having less debt, and earning more from savings and investments.

Regardless of whether they are optimistic or pessimistic, most Americans, 89 percent, plan to make at least one financial goal a priority this year.

Paying down debt was the top resolution overall. Gen X and baby boomers plan to make increasing their retirement savings a priority. Millennials, meanwhile, have their sights set on getting higher-paying jobs.