The Latest Consumer Buzz Word: 'Rebuilding'

Last year, it was all about "green shoots." Now it seems everyone is talking about "rebuilding." Consumers are getting more optimistic.

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Several surveys released over the past few weeks have sounded a similar theme: Americans are no longer dwelling on economic concerns, but are instead more optimistic and focused on steps to rebuild their finances.

That was the message that came across in a survey recently conducted for financial services firm Principal Financial Group by researcher Harris Interactive.

That poll found that the vast majority—some 84 percent of working adults and 71 percent of retirees—had taken actions to improve their financial well-being since the economic downturn began in 2008.

When asked what steps they had taken, most said they are spending less money (62 percent of workers and 54 percent of retirees); paying down debt (45 percent of workers and 29 percent of retirees); and increasing savings for an emergency fund (22 percent of workers and 14 percent of retirees). Eighteen percent of workers said they have increased their retirement savings.

They also are more willing to consider consulting a financial adviser, according to Principal.

Principal is now taking those findings and using them as the theme in their largest integrated marketing campaign to date. Called "America Rebuilds," the campaign will include not only televised commercials, print ads and sports sponsorships such as the NCAA basketball tournament, but also a Web site, with a mobile counterpart, that is full of new tools, calculators and advice.

Meanwhile, America's Research Group said although consumers are continuing to cut back on spending due to bills and debt, but they are starting to open up their pocket books a bit more.

"While consumers don't feel the economy is much better than in early January, they are now shopping more," said Britt Beemer, CEO of American's Research Group.

Beemer said consumers now view themselves as shoppers, but still nearly a third—29.9 percent of those surveyed—said that their debts are forcing them to cut back on spending. In January, 23.1 percent of those surveyed said bills and debts are forcing them to spend less.

At least some of these feelings may be linked to an increased sense that the job market is stabilizing.

According to an American Express survey, 71 percent of Americans consider their job situation "just as stable" or "more stable" than last year.

What's more, 60 percent of the consumers who view their jobs as more stable said they were more likely to increase their spending and investments, particularly in dining out (35 percent) and travel (31 percent).

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