Americans’ financial satisfaction reaches record high, thanks to stock market, says AICPA

A rebound in the stock market in the first quarter of 2019 enabled the personal financial satisfaction of Americans to rebound to an all-new high after declines in the previous quarter, according to a quarterly survey from the American Institute of CPAs.

Job openings continue to be a significant contributor to financial satisfaction, according to the AICPA’s Q1 2019 Personal Financial Satisfaction Index. The AICPA PFSi also found that more Americans are paying their mortgages on time than they have in nearly two decades. As a result, loan delinquencies have declined.

After the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act led to an initial decline in pain from taxes in the first quarter of 2018, the quarterly levels have remained relatively flat this year. Taxes continue to be a significant contributor to financial pain, according to the AICPA. Over the past three years, personal taxes have been the biggest contributor to financial pain for nine out of 12 quarters, according to the AICPA’s metrics.

AICPA PFSi pain factors

Compared with the previous quarter, the 9.1 point (11.3 percent) gain in the PFS Market 750 index brought it to 1.5 percent below its high point. Three of the four pain factors experienced modest declines (inflation by 2.2 points or 5.1 percent, loan delinquencies by 1.8 point or 5.5 percent, and underemployment by 1.6 points or 4.7 percent). Taxes ticked up slightly by 0.3 points, or 0.6 percent.

“No one wants to pay any more taxes than they owe,” said Michael Landsberg, a member of the AICPA’s Personal Financial Planning Executive Committee, in a statement. “Now is the perfect time to use the information in your tax return and underlying documents to build a tax-efficient financial plan. This was the first year with most provisions of the new tax law on the books. As many have discovered, the changes went far beyond a reduction to income tax brackets. If you haven’t already considered the new tax law changes, now is the opportune time to review and update your financial plan,”

For the 2017 tax year, U.S. taxpayers received an average tax refund of $2,899, according to IRS statistics. In the 2018 tax year, the first under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, the average tax refund dipped slightly to $2,795.

“If you wound up receiving a sizable refund from the IRS, it may be prudent to adjust your payroll withholding,” Landsberg advised. “Otherwise, you are essentially giving the government an interest free loan instead of using that money to improve your own financial situation.”

The AICPA CPA Outlook Index, which captures the expectations of CPA executives in the year ahead for their companies and the U.S. economy, remained approximately unchanged in the first quarter of the year from the prior quarter, though it has decreased 8.2 percent (4.6 points) from the previous year.

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