Debt stress eases, survey finds
Got debt? Don't stress it.
That's what more and more Americans are saying, despite a bleak economic picture that includes mounting layoffs, sagging real estate values and a stubborn stock market that has struggled to hold its modest gains.
Debt-related stress is down 12 percent from last year, according to a new Associated Press/GfK survey. Perhaps fueling the optimism, 48 percent say the country is headed in the right direction, compared with just 18 percent who said that in 2008.We've lived with it long enough, you get used to things, said Simon Rego, a professor of psychiatry at Albert Einstein Medical College in the Bronx. It's like jumping into a cold pool. Eventually, you feel warmer.
He added that as the economy continues to stabilize, people feel less uncertainty, which leads to less anxiety about money.
Eddie Licciardo, 42, of Manhattan, a marketing consultant who is $2,000 in debt, said he now feels confident he can pay it off by the end of the year.
I'm living within my means, he said. I'm saving this year. I'm taking my lunch to work with me, I walk - no cabs.
The recession, the longest since World War II, has led to a newfound frugality, some say.
People are doing things that make them feel they are taking charge of their lives again, said Patricia Drentea, a sociology professor at the University of Alabama who studies debt and stress.
The poll found the share of people using their credit cards to buy what they want even if they don't have the money dropped to 19 percent, down from 25 percent last year. The national savings rate jumped to 6.9 percent in May, the highest since December 1993.
I'm less worried about debt than last year, said Esteban Diaz, 38, of Manhattan. I spend only when I need to.
The recession, which started in December 2007, has snatched a net total of 6.5 million jobs, and driven the unemployment rate to a 26-year high of 9.5 percent in June. Just yesterday, the city comptroller predicted that by next year, 400,000 New Yorkers will be unemployed, the most in 15 years.
However, credit and financial problems, which reached a crisis point last fall, have shown signs of easing.
People now have some optimism that the worst is behind them," said Paul J. Lavrakas, a research psychologist and AP consultant who analyzed the results of the survey.
Not everyone has gotten the message.
I'm more worried now, said Kinsey Salsbury, 28, of the Bronx, who is struggling to pay back student loans. The past year has been hard on us.
The AP and Anastasia Economides contributed to this report