In the U.S., the stock market is routinely breaking new all-time records, unemployment rates are at historically low levels, and consumer confidence is soaring. In fact, the economy is performing so well of late that the only financial controversy is between the 45th and 44th Presidents bickering over who deserves the most credit for the impressive turnaround in fortune.

Yet, with the 10-year anniversary of the start of The Great Recession upon us, it’s worth reviewing how people are feeling financially since that fateful day when Lehman Brothers collapsed, “too big to fail” was on everybody’s lips, and the nation adjusted to a “new normal” in spending, saving, and managing money.

Let’s start with the good news: According to Kantar Consulting’s U.S. MONITOR—a consumer insights service that has been tracking Americans’ attitudes, values, and marketplace motivations since 1971—financial worries about everything from putting food on the table to getting out of debt to saving enough money for retirement are all way down vs. 10 years ago (all data shown is from a nationally representative sample of 11,500 Americans, 12+) And, as one might expect, people are feeling better due to the decline in worry, with 48% of Americans reporting that they feel financially comfortable, up from just 39% in 2014:

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So, is it time to pop the champagne, relax, and watch the economy explode like it did in both the mid-1980s or late-1990s? Maybe. But for the economy to truly boom like those bygone eras, far more Americans are going to need to share in the economic upturn than are doing so now: Just 52% of U.S. consumers say that they’re feeling the effects of the positive economy in their own personal financial situations, with women (48%), African Americans (38%), and those with a household income less than $50k per year (42%) trailing behind the rest of the population. And, while financial comfort has improved, that hasn’t translated into people feeling any more secure: Levels of financial security have remained stubbornly unchanged since 2014.

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For brands, it’s a muddier and more nuanced portrait of the current consumer mindset than the mainstream media would lead you to believe. The positive news is that Americans are feeling more optimistic and hopeful about their personal finances than at any time since Lehman Brothers fell. But, as U.S. MONITOR’s tracking data show, more financial security is needed for many large and critical segments if a true, broad-based economic recovery will materialize. It’s clear that delivering upon the unmet needs of assurance, safety, and protection should still be a focus for marketers seeking growth with those segments left behind in the recent economic recovery.

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