Nielsen: U.S. consumer confidence up despite cash woes, saving strategies

SCHAUMBURG, Ill. — U.S. consumers are more optimistic about their finances despite cutting back to save money, according to Nielsen's fourth-quarter global consumer confidence findings.

Nielsen said the U.S. consumer confidence index rose six points from 77 to 83 for fourth quarter 2011 (based on a baseline of 100), with 49% of consumers saying their personal finance prospects will be "good" or "excellent" over the next 12 months. But while nearly half of consumers said their personal finance prospects are in decent shape, almost one-third (32%) of U.S. respondents reported having no spare cash during the quarter. For those that did have funds to spare, however, most said they used the money toward savings (34%), followed by paying off debts (31%) and putting it toward retirement and stocks/mutual funds (8% each).

Nielsen also revealed consumers' the top three strategies to save: nearly two-thirds of those surveyed (64%) cut back on gas and electricity, 58% opted not to buy new clothes and 56% elected to forgo out-of-home entertainment. When asked what they will continue to do when economic conditions improve, consumers' top three answers were cutting back on gas/electricity (54%), cutting back on take-home meals (34%) and switching to cheaper grocery brands (29%).

The Nielsen Global Survey of Consumer Confidence and Spending Intentions was conducted between Nov. 23, 2011 and Dec. 9, 2011.

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