Poll: Almost Half of 'Underbanked' Americans Would Skip Christmas due to Financial Woes

Wednesday, 21 Nov 2012 08:38 AM

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Americans might be in better financial shape than in the recent past, but when it comes to holiday shopping, just under half of those who supplement traditional bank accounts with various alternative financial services, such as payday loans, prepaid debit cards and direct deposit advances, would prefer to give Christmas a financial Bah! Humbug!, a new poll finds.

The survey was conducted by Think Finance, which provides payday loans and other consumer financial services to those with limited access to banking services, among 1,000 Americans across income levels who are considered underbanked.

Overall, 45 percent of the respondents said they don’t expect to have enough money set aside to cover holiday expenses.

Editor's Note: Economist Warns: ‘Money From Heaven a Path to Hell.’ See Evidence.

In addition, 45 percent said Christmas bring so much financial stress that they would prefer to skip it this year.

The poll also found that 85 percent said they will spend the same amount of money or less on gifts this year, with 54 percent planning to spend $500 or less and 27 percent planning to spend between $500 and $1,000 on gifts this holiday season.

“The economy has shown gradual improvement in recent years, but everyday Americans are still working hard to cover expenses, making holiday spending particularly stressful,” Think Finance CEO Ken Rees said.

A closely watched gauge of consumer moods hit a five-year high recently.

The Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan preliminary consumer sentiment index hit 84.9 for November, up from 82.6 in October.

The number beat a median Reuters forecasts for a reading of around 83.0

Analysts gave the surprise reading muted applause due to the proximity of the fiscal cliff, a combination of tax hikes and deep government spending cuts due to take effect at the same time with the closure of this year.

If left unchecked by Congress, the fiscal cliff event could siphon over $600 billion out of the economy next year alone, according to some estimates.

Even if Congress does avoid disaster, businesses and individuals still won’t know what they will be paying in taxes next year for weeks or even months to come, and such uncertainty has prompted businesses to throttle back plans to expand and hire, fueling uncertainty in the markets today.

“It shows that the U.S. economy is on a decent footing heading into the so-called fiscal cliff,” Joe Manimbo, market analyst at Western Union Business Solutions, told Reuters.

“So that should highlight that the economy could be subject to a u-turn if we go over. There’s a lot at stake, and there’s a lot of momentum that could be lost if lawmakers don’t get their act together.”

Editor's Note: Economist Warns: ‘Money From Heaven a Path to Hell.’ See Evidence.

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