7 Most Common Reasons Why Americans Have a Gloomy Financial Outlook

2022 was difficult for many Americans, and a survey found that many people don’t expect things to improve this year.

young worried woman looking out of the window
Updated May 28, 2024
Fact checked

We receive compensation from the products and services mentioned in this story, but the opinions are the author's own. Compensation may impact where offers appear. We have not included all available products or offers. Learn more about how we make money and our editorial policies.

Last year was a rough one for many Americans and their wallets. Economic uncertainties have left the nation feeling pessimistic about an improvement in 2023.

A recent Bankrate survey of more than 3,600 Americans found that 66% don’t expect their finances to improve in 2023.

Following are some common reasons why Americans feel gloomy as they prepare for a possible recession and get ready for other negative impacts on their wallets.

While some of these factors are beyond your control, there are things you can do to lessen the impact of these tough economic times.

Change in life circumstances

Halfpoint/Adobe young couple with a baby and cardboard boxes moving in a new home

Changes in life circumstances were behind the gloomy financial outlook of 16% of the people in the survey. Everything from the expense of having a new baby to a sudden shift in health conditions can generate anxiety.

If you're experiencing financial problems due to a change in life circumstances, take proactive steps to get the situation under control. 

This could include re-evaluating your budget and cutting unnecessary spending, or looking for a second job or side hustle.

Lost savings and investments

max_776/Adobe digital analytics data visualization

Bankrate simply titled this category “money made from savings or investments,” and 18% of people cited this reason for their gloomy outlook after seeing their investment portfolio plunge in 2022, or after spending down savings due to inflation.

The good news is that as interest rates have risen, returns on the top high-yield savings accounts have increased. 

And as far as those depressed investment returns, the stock market has a long history of bouncing back from downturns. So being patient now should pay off over time.

Personal debt

Shisu_ka/Adobe man holding credit cards in hand with calculator and papers in background

Runaway inflation has created a higher cost of living that has forced many Americans to take on more debt. 

As people charge more of their everyday necessities to credit cards, they risk falling into even deeper financial trouble. This is why 18% of survey respondents cited debt as behind their dour outlook.

If you've taken on additional debt to cover expenses, try to cut unnecessary costs. Use the money you save to pay down high-interest debt, which will leave you with more money over the long run and help protect your credit score.

Rising interest rates

chinnarach/Adobe man hand press on calculator to check expenses

Higher interest rates are a good thing if you have a savings account. But they're terrible if you have credit card debt, as they increase the cost of borrowing.

Higher mortgage rates also are a worry for those who want to buy a new home. Mortgage rates are about twice as high now as they were in early 2022, making it much tougher for millions of people to buy a home.

If you’re among the 25% of people worried about high interest rates, take steps to lessen your fears. For example, if you're in the market for a home, shopping around can help you get the lowest rate possible.

And if you have credit card debt, pay it down — or even eliminate it — as quickly as possible if your finances allow you to do so.

Stagnant wages or reduced income

Pixel-Shot/Adobe woman waiting for job interview

In some ways, the job market has never been better. Employers are having a tough time filling positions, and many restaurants and retailers have hiked wages to try to attract candidates.

But inflation is at 40-year highs, wiping out many of the gains that people get with increased pay. Given that reality, it’s no surprise that 27% of survey respondents fret about stagnant wages or reduced income.

If your wages aren’t keeping up with expenses, consider switching jobs. Changing jobs resulted in significantly higher pay for many Americans in 2022, according to Pew Research Center finding.

Reducing work-related costs can also provide benefits. For example, working closer to (or from) home lowers transportation costs, allowing you to pocket more of your paycheck.


Lumos sp/Adobe business conference microphones

Many Americans blame politicians — from the president to members of Congress — for their financial struggles. In fact, 29% of survey representatives give poor marks to their elected representatives.

While Americans cannot control the actions of elected representatives, they do have a say in which officials represent them. 

If the actions of elected officials are among your concerns, make sure your voice is heard by voting in every election, whether at the local, state, or federal level.

High inflation

wifesun/Adobe man in denim jacket looks at sales paper receipt

Finally, we come to the issue that towers above the rest when it comes to fueling the gloom Americans feel about the future: A whopping 63% of Americans cite high inflation as their most prominent concern.

Everything from grocery costs to gas and utility prices has been on the rise over the past couple of years, making it more difficult for Americans to afford basic necessities. 

The uncertainty over a possible recession has understandably left many feeling even worse about their financial outlook.

You can’t stop inflation, but you can respond to it in ways that lessen the blow. Reassess your budget, pay off high-interest debt, buy items in bulk, and find additional ways to save when shopping.

Limiting credit card usage also will leave you in a better financial position once the economy improves.

Bottom line

JustLife/Adobe couple at home after having a fight

If you’re like many Americans, you're probably not feeling optimistic about your financial circumstances in 2023. 

Although there are many uncertainties, don’t give up hope. There are things you can do to reduce the negative impact of difficult economic times.

Making smart money moves now can result in a less gloomy outcome and could even boost your bank account over the long haul.

Short-term financial strain doesn’t need to destroy your long-term financial goals. Ensuring you don’t fall too deeply into debt and not spending all your savings can improve your outlook in 2023 and beyond.

Author Details

Katelyn Washington

Katelyn Washington is a writer with a passion for finance and business. She put herself through business school as a single mother of three and has had pieces commissioned by national magazines. When she’s not writing, she enjoys spending time with her family and editing manuscripts for indie authors.