Fewer Americans stick to financial lessons of Great Recession

Decline is seen in credit card management and more, CPAs group finds

Sabrina Karl
Personal Finance Writer
Data whiz and visual storyteller


As the Great Recession recedes further into our nation’s rearview mirror, it appears some Americans are letting the financial lessons they learned fall by the wayside. 

In 2015, 85 percent of Americans said they had positively changed their financial behavior in of the wake of the recession that began in December 2007. 

Three years later, only 68 percent are reporting they have made financial changes after the longest and deepest recession since the Great Depression of the 1930s, according to new survey data by the American Institute of CPAs. 

Survey respondents also were asked whether they were practicing a set of five smart financial habits, and in every case, the percentage reporting “yes” was lower in 2018 than 2015, sometimes by a substantial margin. 

For instance, almost 6 in 10 Americans (58 percent) said in 2015 they had started following a monthly budget in the wake of the financial crisis. By 2018, the share dropped to less than 4 in 10 (39 percent). 

A dramatic falling off the wagon also was observed with credit card behavior. Today, only 30 percent say they are putting less money on credit cards than before the recession. But in 2015, a full half of Americans said they were making that improvement. 

Drop-offs also were found over the three years on the share of Americans who started or increased their savings rate, an emergency fund or their retirement savings. 

AICPA’s 2015 and 2018 surveys were administered by Harris Poll. In each case, approximately 1,000 adults were surveyed by telephone and results were weighted to mirror U.S. Census demographics. The 2018 survey  was conducted in early April, with findings released May 15, 2018.

Great Recession financial lessons fade

See related: Those with financial plans make other smart money movesLate payments on cards worsen as balances rise, N.Y. Fed says, Average credit scores climbing, despite rising debt, More infographics

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Updated: 02-17-2019