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Start Here: “The Ultimate Guide to Personal Finance”

1,072 people respond: “Are you spending less because of a possible recession?”

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[RSS readers, click here to see the slideshow in this post]

Earlier this week, I took a survey on whether people were spending less because of a possible recession. In just over a day, I got 1,000+ responses (like my earlier research on women and gender). I have very low standards, so two successes is enough for me. Today, I’m announcing that I’ll be doing regular surveys on interesting personal-finance topics. If you have an idea, just add a comment to this post. You’ll have access to a large user base and professional analysis. Basically, I’ll do all the work!

Before I present the data, I want to give a huge thanks to Rob Rubin, who’s helping with the analysis. He’s got a great suite of products:
1. First, search FindABetterBank to find banks that match your criteria (high-interest, online, local ATMs…)
2. Once you match, use BankSwitcher (“Switching banks is hard…we make it easier”)

Rob is so great that last night around midnight his time, I pointed out that he was missing my favorite checking account (the Schwab checking account). By 9am this morning, he’d added it to his database. Please check out his sites — they’re extremely useful.

Without further ado, here are the results of this week’s survey! [RSS readers, click here.]

Slide 2 — Women and baby boomers are most worried about a recession.
Slide 4 — Most people have reduced their spending by less than $50/week, but 14% have cut spending by over $100/week.
Slide 6 — Restaurants and recreational expenditures are likely to be hit hardest by lower spending.

[Too small to read? Click here for a larger version]

What questions would you like to see in future research? Leave a comment here.

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  1. I’d love to hear answers to the following :

    When I want to buy something, I…
    a) save the money first, then buy it
    b) don’t buy it because I don’t have enough disposable income
    c) buy it on credit or borrow money from a friend

    Do you pay off the credit card balance monthly? (yes/no/usually)
    How many credit cards do you own? (1,2,3,4+)

  2. and are both down.

  3. Mr. Sethi,

    Do you think these changes in spending could be accelerating us into a recession?


  4. Neither link to FindABetterBank or BankSwitcher are working. The sites seem to be down…

    Do you have an alternative link?

  5. Thanks for letting me know the sites are down. Rob is aware of the problem and working to fix it now (Saturday, 9:17am).

  6. Update, 9:28am: The sites are back up.

  7. The site is back up. Sorry for the trouble.

  8. The slideshow is impossible to read; the text is just too small.

  9. Hi Ramit,

    What I would be most interested in seeing is some sort of analysis that relates fear/confidence ratings about the looming recession versus what their regular money habits look like. The slide results tell us how habits have changed because of the prospect of recession, but not how regular habits relate to consumer concern.

    So for those that are confident that the recent downturns are not a threat to their overall financial picture, what have they been doing to begin with and how have their habits changed versus those who feel concern about their financial picture because of the threat of recession. I wonder if confidence ratings would align with the extent to which readers are following financial best practices identified on this site and others.

  10. I don’t really want to be that data geek who just jumps in to pick apart the survey, but I’m feeling hard pressed not to offer just a wee bit of advice, since you do have a professional analyst putting his good time towards the number crunching.

    If you are trying to get info on changes in people’s behavior, adding in another question or two might give you more thorough, interesting and possibly unexpected data. The initial question, “Has recent news of a recession made you reduce your spending?” is actually two questions. 1. Have you reduced your spending, and 2. Is it because of recent news of a recession?

    Wouldn’t it be interesting if you found that, for example, 70% of respondents had reduced their spending in the last three months, but only 50% of those who said yes attributed it to news of the recession? Wouldn’t you be curious why that other 20% reduced spending in this time frame – and if it was related to the recession in a different way? Ie. maybe a person reduced their spending because of the direct effect of the interest rate cuts or stock prices on their assets – that person might not attribute this to ‘news of a recession’, although it is related. I realize these surveys are expected to have a biased sample, and just give some interesting illustrations of your readers’ experience and choices, but your quantitative data won’t mean much if you are inadvertently losing respondents with relevant experiences at question 1.

    It’s hard to control for how people might interpret your questions – breaking down a “what/why?” issue into a few simpler questions can help illustrate those issues you couldn’t have predicted, or provide more specific data on what is affecting people’s behavior.

    /lecture 🙂