Despite ongoing concerns and headlines, the current state of the US economy can be interpreted as a promising picture. Consumer spending is strong, unemployment rates are low, and responsible lending practices are in place. The lessons learned from the 2008 financial crisis have led to laws and regulations that prioritize the stability of the housing market and protect consumers from taking on risky mortgages.
Let's delve into the reasons behind this cautious optimism and explore strategies to safeguard your finances during these times.
1. Strong Consumer Spending and Economic Growth
Consumer spending is an important engine that fuels economic growth. In 2023, Americans are demonstrating remarkable resilience in this regard. As reported by Axios, there has been a significant rise in consumer spending across various sectors, despite ongoing inflation. According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, personal income rose by 0.4% in April 2023. It's no wonder then that personal spending increased as well by 0.8% last month, as did business spending.
While typically, consumer spending slows down after the winter holidays, this year, consumers have seen an increase of $5 billion in retail card spending and personal loans. This upwards trajectory speaks to the confidence consumers have in their own finances, as well as the economy's stability.
2. Low Unemployment Rates
Another pillar of the robust US economy lies in its low unemployment rates. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate has ranged from 3.4 percent to 3.7 percent since March 2022, remaining incredibly stable. Some states, including Midwestern and Southern states, have even seen record unemployment lows in the past few months.
Despite what you might hear about layoffs at major corporations and tech companies, most sectors haven't seen significant job losses this year. Many sectors are actually growing, including:
- Professional and business services (+43,000 jobs added in April 2023)
- Healthcare (+40,000 jobs)
- Leisure and hospitality (+31,000 jobs)
- Social services (+25,000 jobs)
3. Responsible Lending Practices
The lending industry went through a big change after the 2008 financial crisis. New laws and regulations were implemented to prevent a repeat of the subprime mortgage debacle. These rules protect both you as borrowers, as well as lenders, to ensure that you're financially equipped to repay your mortgage.
As a result, the mortgage market has experienced a shift toward more cautious lending practices. Banks and financial institutions are now required to thoroughly assess your creditworthiness, income stability, and ability to repay, mitigating the risks associated with subprime lending. According to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, the median credit score for a person taking out a mortgage was 765 in Q1 of 2023. The statistics demonstrate that lenders have indeed become more strict as they take on creditworthy borrowers only.
The tightening of lending can also be seen in the record low in mortgage originations, according to CNBC. If you have a lower credit score, however, changes are on the horizon. The Biden administration has taken steps to make homeownership more attainable for those with lower credit scores.
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Safeguarding Your Personal Finances
While the current economic climate may be favorable, it is important to take proactive steps to safeguard your personal finances in any economic environment. Here are a few suggestions to consider:
- Maintain a budget: Creating and sticking to a budget allows you to track your income and expenses effectively. This practice helps identify areas where you can save and prioritize your financial goals, ensuring your spending aligns with your long-term objectives.
- Build an emergency fund: It's crucial to set aside funds for unexpected situations. Aim to build an emergency fund that covers at least three to six months of living expenses. Having a financial safety net provides peace of mind and protection during challenging times.
- Diversify investments: While investing is a way to grow your wealth, diversifying your portfolio can mitigate risks. Consider spreading your investments across different asset classes and industries to safeguard against potential market volatility. We've gathered the Best Low-Risk Investments.
- Educate yourself: Stay informed about financial matters. Regularly educate yourself about personal finance, savings, investments, and the economy. Understanding economic trends and financial concepts empowers you to make informed decisions and adapt to changing circumstances.
Data shows that the US economy is stable, supported by strong consumer spending, low unemployment rates, and responsible lending practices. The hard-won lessons from the 2008 financial crisis have paved the way for a more resilient and stable financial system. As consumers, it's vital to protect your finances no matter the state of the economy. By maintaining a budget, building an emergency fund, diversifying investments, and staying financially educated, we can protect our financial well-being and make the most of these economic times.