Americans’ Personal Financial Satisfaction Increases Slightly to Eight-Year High, According to AICPA Index

July 16, 2015

NEW YORK (July 16, 2015) – Americans’ personal financial satisfaction has hit a new post-recession high. An increase in job openings and a rise in home equity values coupled with continued reductions in loan delinquencies means that the financial outlook for the average American is the most positive it has been since the third quarter of 2007. That’s according the Q2 2015 PFSi (Personal Financial Satisfaction Index) released today by the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA).

The Q2 2015 PFSi index measured 15.0, representing a 1.9 point increase from the prior quarter and an 18.2 point increase from one year ago. Inflation, now registering at historically-low levels, was also a contributing factor in the PFSi increase from the previous quarter. In fact, the biggest cause for the increase year-over-year is the sharp reduction in the rate of inflation – driven in part by falling oil prices – which trickles down into the cost of many of the goods Americans consume.

In addition, the U.S. housing market is slowly returning to pre-recession levels. This is captured in the Personal Financial Pleasure Index as gains in real home equity per capita – which is largely the result of increases in the market value of homes, with many U.S. cities continuing their slow but steady rebound.  Another large contributor to the rise in the PFSi is the PFS 750 Market Index. The index has set new highs in the past year, although it was lower this quarter than in than first quarter.

While the second quarter represents a post-recession high for the PFSi, the quarterly increase was the smallest in the past four quarters, and represents a slight slowing of momentum.

“The PFSi is making slow, but steady progress further into positive territory in 2015 – which is what Americans have been feeling in their personal financial situations,” said Bob Fay CPA/PFS and a member of the AICPA’s National Accreditation Commission. “While potentially worrisome international news has dominated recent economic headlines in the U.S. – Greece’s protracted debt negotiations with Europe, uncertainty with the Chinese stock market – there has been limited impact to date on the PFSi and therefore on the financial standing of the average American.”

The driving factor in the rise of the PFSi is the reduction in the Personal Financial Pain Index by 1.6 points. The continued easing of Pain Index factors has driven increases in Americans’ overall financial satisfaction, while the Pleasure Index largely held steady.

“The low inflation rate since the recession held back everything from mortgage rates to the price of a gallon of milk. With the Fed signaling that they are likely to raise interest rates before the end of the year, Americans should pay close attention, review their financial plans and consider their options. If increases in consumer prices aren’t coupled with wage increases, Americans should be prepared to feel some financial pain,” Fay added.

The PFSi weighs a variety of economic factors to calculate the financial standing of a typical American. It is the result of calculating the difference between the Personal Financial Pleasure Index and the Personal Financial Pain Index. The PFSi, calculated as the Personal Financial Pleasure Index minus the Personal Financial Pain Index represents the financial standing of a typical American, uses both proprietary and normalized official U.S. Government data.

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.

Additional information on the PFSi can be found at: www.aicpa.org/PFSi.

For a more information on the PFSi index, contact James Schiavone at 212-596-6119, jschiavone@aicpa.org 

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 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.

About the AICPA’s PFP Division
The AICPA’s Personal Financial Planning (PFP) Section is the premier provider of information, tools, advocacy, and guidance for CPAs who specialize in providing estate, tax, retirement, risk management, and investment planning advice to individuals, families and business owners. The primary objective of the PFP Section is to support its members by providing resources that enable them to perform valuable PFP services in the highest professional manner.

CPA financial planners are held to the highest standards and are uniquely able to integrate their extensive knowledge of tax and business planning with all areas of personal financial planning to provide objective and comprehensive guidance for their clients.  The AICPA offers the Personal Financial Specialist (PFS) credential exclusively to CPAs who have demonstrated their expertise in personal financial planning through testing, experience and learning.