February preliminary Money Anxiety Index is down to 66.5 following a spike to 67.7 in January. The January spike in consumers’ financial anxiety was caused by a disappointing fourth quarter GDP data showing 2.6 percent annualized growth rate; nearly half the growth pace in third quarter at 5 percent annualized rate. Conversely, consumers are gaining financial confidence in February as a result of improvement in the January job report showing employers added 257,000 new jobs for the month.
The dichotomy in economic data is confusing to consumers, and is causing volatility in their level of financial anxiety. The hardest part to understand is the healthy growth in the job market, which added an average of 336,000 jobs in the last three month, and at the same time, fourth quarter GDP growth rate slowed down to 2.6 percent and December consumer consumption was flat. This confusion is reflected in the volatility of the Money Anxiety Index, which increased to 67.7 in January and back down to 66.5 preliminary for February.
The Money Anxiety Index measures consumers’ level of financial worry and stress. Historically, the Money Anxiety Index fluctuated from a high of 135.3 during the recession of the early 1980s, to a low of 38.7 in the mid 1960s. The money anxiety Index was developed by Dr. Dan Geller, who is an expert in behavioral finance, and the author of the book Money Anxiety. The index is highly predictive. It signaled the arrival of the Great Recession over a year prior to the official declaration of the recession in December of 2007.