Americans confident in 2009 turnaround

A majority believe the economy will be in good shape a year from now, but remain wary about some prospects, according to a survey.

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By David Goldman, CNNMoney.com staff writer

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Though times are tough now, Americans believe the economy will bounce back by next year, according to a survey released Friday.

A national CNN/Opinion Research Corp. poll found that 60% of respondents think economic conditions in the United States will be "good" next year, as opposed to the 75% who think the economic situation is "poor" now.

"Most people realize that the economy has cycles of ups and downs," said Wachovia economist Sam Bullard. "Fortunately, the last two recessions were some of the shortest on record, so in 2009 we should be pulling up out of this."

Of the more than 1,000 American adults surveyed in the poll, conducted March 14-16, 83% said they are "confident" that they will be able to maintain their standards of living next year, and 85% are "confident" they will keep their jobs over the next six months.

Americans also showed faith that they would be able to pay off their future debts, with 90% of respondents demonstrating confidence they would be able to meet their monthly mortgage payments for the duration of the mortgage.

Nearly as many Americans - 83% - said they could pay off college loans, car payments, and credit cards in the future. The average amount of credit card debt of those polled was $4,000.

"Consumers, in general, are optimists," said Bullard, who believes that increased consumer spending after the tax rebate checks are delivered in the late spring will help boost the economy in the third and fourth quarters of 2008.

"Even when they're not optimists, they love shopping," he added.

But Americans are less optimistic about their long-term financial situation. Only 23% felt "very confident" about paying for their children to attend their choice of college.

Furthermore, only 29% said they were "very confident" about saving enough money to live comfortably when they retire, and just 44% believe they will be able to retire when they want to. According to the poll, 58% want to retire sometime in their 60s.

Since respondents were uncertain about their long-term prospects, only 34% said they were "very confident" about maintaining their standard of living over the next 10 years, as opposed to 45% who said the same about next year.

"They're worried about inflation," said Bullard. "Medical care and education costs are outpacing other price increases, and they're worried about how they can afford to retire."

As for the more immediate future, however, Bullard thinks consumers are right to be confident.

"The Fed's rate cuts will start to take their toll later this year, and the economy should bounce back by the end of 2008," he said. To top of page

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