AICPA poll uncovers major concerns of Americans

Job security emerged as a top financial concern for Americans amid a 16-month U.S. economic recession, according to a poll conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants.

Nearly five in 10 employed Americans – 47 percent – said they are "concerned" about losing their jobs soon. Fifteen percent said they were "somewhat concerned" and 10 percent said they were "very concerned." Nationwide the U.S. unemployment rate is currently 8.5 percent, according to the Department of Labor, and is expected to rise.

Asked "what is currently your most important financial concern?" 11 percent of AICPA Harris survey respondents cited losing their job, nearly triple the 4 percent who had cited job security in 2008 as a top financial concern.

As a result, a large proportion of Americans – 42 percent – are holding off on major life decisions including home ownership, higher education, marriage, children, medical procedures, and retirement. Sixty-seven percent of respondents said they had reduced spending in the past few months either "significantly" or "somewhat."

"This recession is raising the very real threat of job loss for many Americans and adding to the financial pressures they already face," said Carl George, chair of the AICPA's National CPA Financial Literacy Commission. "We see people cutting back on spending and saving more, which is a positive for the economy if it continues. Unfortunately it comes at the expense of many Americans who find themselves unable to reach major goals in life."

Job concerns ranked second only to retirement as the most important financial concern in the latest annual AICPA Harris survey. Retirement is a regular top financial concern. Thirteen percent said retirement is their biggest concern, consistent with the same level in each of the past two years.

The CPA profession created 360 Degrees of Financial Literacy to educate Americans on how financial issues affect them at all life stages, from childhood to retirement.

A related campaign, Feed the Pig, created with the Ad Council, helps 25 to 34 year-olds prepare for long-term financial security.

Methodology

The study was conducted by telephone within the United States by Harris Interactive on behalf of the AICPA between March 4 and March 8, 2009 among 1,011 Americans over the age of 18. Questions were aimed at determining the important financial concerns facing Americans such as employment, major life decisions, budget spending and saving, perceptions about the U.S. economy and home market. Results were weighted for education, age by sex, race, household size (number of adults), number of voice/telephone lines in the household, and 8-point region where necessary to align them with their actual proportions in the population. The margin of sampling error was plus or minus 3.1 percentage points. A full methodology is available.

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