Donald W. Reynolds National Center For Business Journalism

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Why financially satisfied Americans need to hear about debt

January 4, 2018

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Overall, Americans feel pretty good about their financial situation. They may need a wake-up call. (Image by "rawpixel" via Pixabay, CC0 Creative Commons)
Overall, Americans feel pretty good about their financial situation. They may need a wake-up call. (Image by “rawpixel” via Pixabay, CC0 Creative Commons)

Americans’ personal financial satisfaction is the highest since 2006, as the latest report from the American Institute of CPAs latest survey shows. That’s not too surprising. The stock market is soaring, jobs are increasing and there’s been a significant decrease in inflation. This AICPA infographic paints a quick picture of how last quarter’s Personal Financial Pleasure Index far surpasssed the Personal Financial Pain Index:

A look at the second quarter, 2017 Personal Financial Satisfaction Index, from AICPA.
A look at the second quarter 2017 Personal Financial Satisfaction Index, from the AICPA.

But these upward ticks shouldn’t distract consumers from being prepared when the economic cycle shifts. In addition to reporting on the upside of the current, healthier economy, business journlists can help their readers stay focused on their long-term financial goals.

Importance of avoiding and reducing debt

As the economy improves, Americans’ appetite for debt increases, reports the New York Fed. By June 2017, U.S. household debt had surged 15.1 percent since the second quarter of 2013.

Current low interest rates mean that consumers spend less money every month servicing their debt, but a rate increase could leave some coming up short. “People naturally overweigh the current situation and forget that it is part of a cycle,” says the AICPA’s David Stolz, a Personal Finance Specialist. “It’s always wise to save some acorns in the summer, because we know eventually winter is coming.”

Even in these fairly flush financial times, readers will relate to an article that features consumer and government experts discussing how to rein in an appetite for debt. The Federal Trade Commission has information on debt repayment services. Your article might feature a debt calculator, or use a graphic to explain, step by step, how to pay off debt.

Current savings landscape

Despite a steady drumbeat from financial planners who advise clients to save 10 to 15 percent of their incomes, Americans are saving far less. The latest quarterly report from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York shows that the personal savings rate took a serious hit in 2017, skinnying down from 6.3 percent in October 2015 to 3.8 percent today.

Instead of asking the experts how consumers save, use it as a rich topic for a man-on-the-street roundup or video. You can flesh it out with a handful of tips from America Saves, a campaign of the nonprofit Consumer Federation of America.

Reporter’s Resources

• The AICPA: James Schiavone,, 212-596-6119.

• The Federal Trade Commission: Frank Dorman, consumer fraud & debt collection, 202-326-2674,

• The Consumer Federation of America: Susan Grant, 202-387-9121,

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