MassMutual Consumer Spending & Saving Index: Ukraine conflict threatens Americans’ confidence in economic recovery, adds to inflationary concerns

Most Americans (73%) believe the conflict in Ukraine will have a negative impact on the US economy and 2 out of 3 (66%) are concerned the conflict will have a negative impact on their day-to-day finances.

Almost half of Americans are looking to save more cash (46%) and 42% are delaying investments in response to the crisis.

Yet Americans are struggling to save in the face of inflation, especially women: Over the past three months, most women have saved less than $500, and over a third of women have not saved any money. Of all Americans who saved less than $500 in the month of January, almost half said living paycheck to paycheck was the reason.

SPRINGFIELD, Mass.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–The ongoing conflict in Ukraine is causing Americans to readjust their financial habits and mute their optimism about their financial future, according to new research from Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual). This, combined with inflationary pressure, has the potential to dent the resurgence of the U.S. economy.

Almost half (45%) of Americans say they think the current geopolitical environment will impact their spending and lifestyle in the coming months, with finances already strained by inflation:

Of the total population, 88% have seen a rise in the price of groceries and 80% for fuel for vehicles. Since the start of 2022, nearly half (47%) have exceeded their budget for groceries.

Nearly 40% of respondents have recently dipped into savings.

“The conflict in Ukraine and its impact on already high inflation is forcing U.S. consumers to reassess their finances and position themselves to weather potential future economic turbulence,” said Mike Fanning, head of MassMutual US. “Those who have been able to build good financial habits and shore up their finances during the pandemic will be best positioned during what could be a transitory period.”

With the future uncertain, Americans’ ‘wait’n see’ approach could impact the U.S. economy with Millennials and Gen X, the most cautious.

While many anticipate a wider economic impact due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, only 14% have taken immediate action in changing their savings and investment strategy. Of these few, men were more likely to react: 17% of men made changes to their finances compared to 10% of women. Men (18%) are significantly more likely than women (9%) to say that the current conflict has made them more likely to invest in cryptocurrencies.

More broadly, across generations consumers are delaying important purchases due to inflation, with Millennials and Gen X (67%) seeing the biggest impact compared to 52% of Gen Z and 44% of Baby Boomers. Though Gen Z isn’t leading the overall delay in purchases, they were more likely (49%) to delay the purchase of gifts for others, compared to 31% of Millennials, 30% of Gen X, and 32% of Baby Boomers.

One silver lining: American consumers have made financial strides since the beginning of the pandemic, with Millennials standing out.

Prior to the Ukraine conflict, Americans, including Millennials, took positive financial steps to help them better position themselves for a post-COVID world.

More Americans said their income has increased since the beginning of the pandemic (8% in 2020 vs. 15% in 2022). And fewer Americans are saying that their income has decreased (40% in 2020 vs. 19% in 2022).

During the pandemic, saving and paying down debt also emerged as new financial habits for many Americans. Men, regardless of generation, were more likely than women to save money (33% men vs. 25% women) and pay down debt (17% men vs. 12% women) during the pandemic. From a generational perspective, Millennials, both men and women, were the most likely to prioritize saving (37% millennials vs. 29% general population) and paying down debt (23% millennials vs. 14% general population).

Millennials were also significantly more likely than other generations to adopt positive lifestyle habits: Thirty-eight percent practiced activities to improve emotional health/wellness and saved by entertaining at home, while 22% developed more meaningful interactions with neighbors.

Americans entered 2022 with a more optimistic view on their finances. Optimism has increased since the beginning of the pandemic (April 2020), with 31% of Americans saying they expect their personal finances will improve post-COVID, up from 25% in April 2020.

And a good number of Americans were eager to leave the pandemic behind them. Twenty-four percent of respondents declared, “It’s time to move on whether the pandemic is over or not,” and 33% noted, “The pandemic is on its way to being an endemic like the flu.”

“With several historic events threatening to hinder finances, consumers are taking pause as uncertainty remains the only constant,” said Fanning. “However, many Americans have made positive financial strides through the pandemic which could lead to renewed optimism once the current conflict ends, and inflationary pressures subside.”

Methodology

The MassMutual Consumer Spending & Saving Index tracks financial outlooks and behaviors in a changing economic environment. It offers an in-depth snapshot of people’s saving and spending behaviors and examines outlooks and attitudes being tapped to navigate the financial impacts of the pandemic and the changing state of the economy. Commissioned by MassMutual, the research was conducted online by PSB from February 18-22, among a nationally representative sample of 1,000 U.S. adults ages 18+. Following the outbreak conflict in Ukraine, PSB conducted a follow-up survey from March 4-7 among a nationally representative sample of 500 U.S. adults ages 18+ to measure updated sentiment.

Links to prior indexes:

2021 Holiday Spending Poll

2021 Summer Index

2021 Spring Index

2021 Winter Index

About MassMutual

MassMutual is a leading mutual life insurance company that is run for the benefit of its members and participating policyowners. Founded in 1851, the company has been continually guided by one consistent purpose: we help people secure their future and protect the ones they love. With a focus on delivering long-term value, MassMutual offers a wide range of protection, accumulation, wealth management and retirement products and services. For more information, visit www.massmutual.com.

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Contacts

Media:

Paula Tremblay, MassMutual, ptremblay@massmutual.com