This year, 57% of American consumers plan to spend as much or more than they did last year at the holidays -compared with 54% last year-according to a survey released by CUNA and the Consumer Federation of America.
The survey found that 47% of respondents said their financial situation was the same as last year, 30% said it was worse, and 23% said it was better. In 2009, 44% of respondents said their economic condition was the same, 36% said it was worse, and 19% said it was better.
"While these results convince us that holiday spending will increase this year-elements of our survey also underline the fact many consumers continue to harbor significant concerns about the economy and their personal finances," CUNA Senior Economist Mike Schenk said. "Because of this we expect the increase in holiday spending this season to be modest-roughly half the 5% long-run average increase."
He noted that in light of consumer anxiety, credit unions should work with their members to help them develop budgets for the holiday and take other steps to improve their financial health.
"Credit unions should help people implement spending plans, find ways to pay down their debt and begin early next year to start saving for next year's holiday season," he added.
Consumer anxiety is fueled in part by the high unemployment rate, which was 9.6% in October. Labor Department data indicated that 15 people million are unemployed, 9 million are underemployed, and 4 million have stopped looking for jobs.
The survey also found that 57% of respondents said they were unconcerned about meeting credit card payments, compared with 58% last year. By contrast, 24% said they were concerned about making payments, the same as last year. This year, 9% of respondents said they were neither concerned nor unconcerned, compared with 10% last year. Both this year and last, 18% reported they don't have credit card payments. .
According to the survey, 43% of respondents were concerned about meeting all their monthly debt obligations, such as credit cards and loans, 40% were unconcerned, and 12% were neither concerned nor unconcerned. Last year, 43% were unconcerned, 42% were concerned, and 8% were neither concerned nor unconcerned.
The survey found a greater concern about finances among middle-aged respondents. Among those respondents between the ages of 45 and 54, 51% said they intend to spend less, and 36% said their financial condition was worse than last year.
CUNA and Consumer Federation America conducted telephone interviews with more than 1,000 people from Nov. 11 to 14. This is the 11th year that the two associations have conducted the survey.