Fed survey: Americans still healing from recession

Americans are feeling a bit better about the economy following the recession, but still carry significant financial scars, according to new survey data from the Federal Reserve.

The survey, released Thursday, shows Americans in 2013 generally had an optimistic outlook about the economy but are still precariously positioned financially over five years since the recession began.

Roughly a third of those surveyed by the Fed said that they were worse off financially now than they were five years ago, compared to just 30 percent who said they were better off. And 57 percent reported that they had to use up some or all of their savings to get through the most recent recession, while just 48 percent said they could absorb an unexpected $400 expense without selling something or borrowing money.

It appears that the recession itself had a direct impact on the financial future of many Americans and how they chose to live their lives. Forty-two percent of Americans said they put off a major purchase as a result of the downturn, and 18 put off a “major life decision” thanks to the economic slowdown.

On the retirement front, many Americans reported they had done little to no planning for their later years. Almost half reported that they had given no or little thought to retirement planning, and 31 percent of Americans reported having no retirement savings or pensions — including nearly a fifth of Americans near retirement age, of 55 to 64.

Here, the recession again had a direct impact, as two-fifths of those over 45 said they pushed back their planned retirement date when the economy took a step back. And those who have retired since 2008 are four times as likely to have retired early when the economy hit the skids than to have retired later than expected.

Still, most Americans seem to be relatively solid in their financial status: 60 percent reported they were either “doing okay” or “living comfortably.” Only 10 percent of those surveyed expect home prices in their area will fall in the next year, although 45 percent who had owned a home since before the recession said their value was now lower than it was in 2008.