Americans’ Finances Breaking Into Positive Territory in the New Year: AICPA PFS Index

New Economic Barometer Gauges Americans’ Personal Financial Satisfaction

January 15, 2015

NEW YORK (January 15, 2015) – A decrease in loan delinquencies and improvement in job openings have pushed Americans’ overall financial satisfaction  firmly into positive territory for the first time since the financial crisis, according to a new quarterly index released today by the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA).

The PFSi (Personal Financial Satisfaction Index)—which weighs a variety of economic factors to calculate the financial standing of a typical American—launched today at +6.6. This represents an increase of 6.5 points from the previous quarter and 14.9 points from one year ago, showing that the economic recovery is finally translating into improvements in the lives of average Americans.

Positive readings of the PFSi indicate that Americans’ financial opportunities are expanding faster than the potential loss in financial well-being.  Negative readings of the PFSi would indicate that it is more likely that consumers are facing financial difficulties.

“After years of feeling personal financial pain, the continued growth of the stock market, increases in available jobs, and a sharp decrease in consumer loan delinquencies are moving Americans’ finances into positive territory,” said Jeannette Koger, vice president of Member Specialization and Credentialing with the AICPA. “In addition to providing Americans with a unique reference point to gauge their own financial standing, the Personal Financial Satisfaction Index gives financial planners a starting point for client conversations.”

Using both proprietary and normalized official U.S. Government data, the PFSi is comprised of two component indices that measure positive (Personal Financial Pleasure) and negative (Personal Financial Pain) factors equally.

Pleasure factors include the proprietary PFS 750 Market Index, comprised of the 750 largest companies by market capitalization trading on the U.S. markets, excluding ADRs, mutual funds and ETFs. The other components are the AICPA’s CPA Outlook Index, Real Home Equity Per Capita and Job Openings Per Capita. Pain factors include inflation, personal taxes, loan delinquencies and underemployment.

The largest contributor to the improvement in the index score this quarter was a substantial decrease in loan delinquencies—including consumer credit cards and mortgage loans—from 3.8 to 2.9 percent. An increase in the number of job openings, from 4.0 million to 4.8 million, was the second most important contributor to the overall net index, closely followed by improvements in the stock market captured in the PFS 750 Market Index.

Other factors which helped push the index further into positive territory were a reduction in underemployment, and an increase in the home equity factor, driven by an 8.3 percent increase in market values, accompanied by a slight decline in mortgage liabilities.

Click to view an infographic of the PFSi.

The PFSi is being launched prior to this year’s AICPA Advanced Personal Financial Planning Conference, which will be held on January 19-21.

For a more information on the PFSi index, or to register to attend the PFP Conference virtually, contact Kristin Vincenzo at kvincenzo@aicpa.org or 212-596-6138.

Methodology

The Personal Financial Satisfaction Index ( PFSi) is calculated as the difference between the Personal Financial Pleasure Index, and the Personal Financial Pain Index.  These are in turn comprised of four equally weighted factors each of which measure the growth of assets and opportunities, in the case of the Pleasure Index, and the erosion of assets and opportunities, in the case of the Pain Index.  Those factors have been modified to an average value of 50.