More than half of working Americans either have not noticed or been unaffected by the January 1 expiration of the payroll tax cut, according to a new survey.
The survey, by the personal finance site Bankrate.com, found that 48 percent of the 1,006 working Americans polled haven’t noticed and 7 percent said they have been unaffected by the expiration at the beginning of the year of the 2 percent point cut in Social Security taxes.
Conversely, 30 percent of working Americans said they have cut their spending as a result, while 8 percent are putting less money into savings and 3 percent have scaled back their retirement savings contributions.
Nevertheless, consumers’ feelings of financial security have improved markedly over the past month, according to Bankrate’s research.
Bankrate's March Financial Security Index reading of 101.5 is the highest since the monthly polls began in December 2010. The 4.7-point jump from February’s 96.8 is the second-biggest monthly gain in the index's history (after a five-point gain from April 2011 to May 2011). This is only the third time in the past 28 months that consumers are feeling better about their financial security versus 12 months prior.
“What is shocking is that the lowest-income households were the least likely to have cut back on spending and the most likely not to have noticed the change in the payroll tax,” said Bankrate.com senior financial analyst Greg McBride in a statement. “These results contradict the widely held assumption that lower-income households would feel the biggest squeeze from the payroll tax cut expiring.”
Those most likely to have cut spending were households with income between $50,000 and $75,000 per year. Households headed by college graduates were the most likely to have cut their spending, whereas households headed by those with less than a college degree were the most likely not to have noticed the higher payroll tax rate.
Four of the Financial Security Index's five components (job security, debt, net worth and overall financial situation) indicate that Americans are better off now than one year ago; savings is the only laggard. All five components improved over the past month.
The survey was conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International. The full report can be found here.
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