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KPMG Survey: Amid Compound Volatility, Americans Optimistic About Their Own Personal Finances, But Less Optimistic About U.S. Economy’s Growth Prospects

Respondents Expect Products and Services to Be Enhanced with Generative AI Across Industries, but Expressed Discomfort with Using the Tech in Some Areas

May 30, 2024

May 30, 2024: Americans are more optimistic about their personal financial situations than the growth prospects of the U.S. economy over the next year, while exhibiting various degrees of enthusiasm, comfort and skepticism in the forces shaping the consumer experience, according to a new study released today by KPMG LLP (KPMG), the U.S. audit, tax and advisory firm.

The inaugural KPMG American Perspectives Survey assessed the views of 1,100 adults nationwide to understand their outlook on their personal financial situation and the U.S. economy, spending plans and preferences, as well as attitudes toward the forces shaping their experience in banking, energy, government, automobiles, healthcare and technology. Additionally, 400 U.S. adults were surveyed in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, New York and San Francisco for local insights.

The report reviews these perspectives through the lens of compound volatility: the combination of near- term risks, such as geopolitical and technology-driven disruption, and longer-term structural changes to the U.S. economy, including the energy transition and sticky inflation.

“Similar to business leaders’ attitudes, people’s overall optimism is connected to their confidence in navigating the forces shaping our economy, including generative AI, the energy transition, digitalization, and more,” said Matt Kramer, KPMG U.S. Products Line of Business Leader. “Americans are grappling with compound volatility, requiring businesses and governments to think critically about how they enhance trust, drive innovation and promote growth.”

Click to jump to findings from individual cities:

National survey findings include:

Americans are optimistic about their personal financial situation over the next year but skeptical about the growth prospects of the U.S. economy.

  • People are optimistic in their personal financial situation over the coming year (54% optimistic vs 24% not optimistic). Even with sticky inflation, people are optimistic about their levels of disposable income to pay for vacations, dining out, and more (44% optimistic vs. 32% not optimistic). 
  • Despite these tailwinds, people are less confident in the growth prospects of the U.S. economy (37% optimistic vs. 38% not optimistic). 
  • Additionally, 65% of people, including nearly 60% of those making $200,000 or more, report they expect to do more discount shopping this year, while 14% plan to use buy now, pay later services.
  • This response in the era of compound volatility is the reverse of CEOs. Per the 2024 KPMG U.S. CEO Outlook Pulse Survey, U.S. CEOs were more confident in the growth prospects of the domestic economy (87%) than their own companies (78%).
  • Furthermore, people do not believe that interest rate cuts by the Federal Reserve would improve their personal financial situation (75%).
  • Across the five major cities surveyed, New York and the San Francisco Bay Area stand out as having people confident in both their personal financial situations and the U.S. economy. 

As people experiment more with generative AI (GenAI) in their personal lives and the workplace, people are demanding that GenAI be integrated into their consumer experience across industries.

Kramer: "As GenAI becomes more prevalent in their daily lives, it’s clear people expect companies to embed GenAI responsibly into their experience. However, for businesses to maximize the power of GenAI, it’s also clear they need to build more trust with consumers.”

  • With new GenAI services launching regularly, people report that GenAI is having at least somewhat of an impact on their personal (40%) and professional lives (41%).
  • Overall, 52% of people report having used GenAI for personal reasons with the most common uses being asking a question (32%), asking for advice (20%), as a writing assistant (19%), or for creative purposes (17%).
  • Across the country, about 25% of people report they expect to use GenAI for work on a weekly basis in the next 12 months.
  • Likewise, nearly 40% of all people, and 44% of Gen Z and millennials expect their bank to have a GenAI capability that allows them to quickly get information to make banking decisions.
  • More than 50% of people believe GenAI will deliver healthcare benefits by improving responses to questions virtually or via text, helping schedule appointments, and refilling prescriptions, while almost 40% expect providers to become more efficient.
  • People also expect government agencies to improve their experience with GenAI across a number of government services. Most (60%) say it is important for the government to use GenAI to improve their experience with the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), while 54% believe it can improve their access to healthcare benefits.

Lower levels of trust in certain areas, however, demand a human-in-the-loop approach to mortgages and healthcare diagnoses and treatment, among other services.

  • Within banking, more than 40% of people are comfortable with GenAI advice related to budgeting and credit card choices. Yet 31% of people are comfortable with GenAI advice related to mortgages, 35% with auto loans and 32% with investment decisions. 
  • Within healthcare, 50% of people expect GenAI to improve their experience, but they are less optimistic about the role of the technology improving the accuracy and efficacy of diagnosis and treatment planning (33%).
  • With GenAI in healthcare, people have concerns about the lack of human interaction and empathy (63%), reliability and accuracy of AI-generated diagnoses (61%) and privacy and security of personal health data (56%).  

Beyond GenAI, people are also navigating our transition to a low-carbon economy. Consumers want more renewable energy, believing it will reduce prices longer term, but are unsure or skeptical about additional energy sources central to the energy transition.

“Consumers are comfortable with what they know – right now that is renewables and fossil fuels. While this may sound like a paradox to some, it points to the messy reality that is the energy transition.  Whether it’s educating consumers on the benefits of nuclear energy or getting customers on board with purchasing an electric or hybrid vehicle, the market – and especially the costs to the consumer – will be a significant driver of the energy transition.” 

Angie Gildea, KPMG U.S. Energy Sector Leader

  • People are most comfortable with the use of renewables as a power source (69%) compared with fossil fuels (41%), and 52% believe adding more renewable energy to the power mix will reduce prices longer term, compared with 20% for fossil fuels. 
  • However, the energy transition is more complex than simply adding renewable energy to the power mix. There are other sources of carbon emissions, and a variety of energy sources are necessary to effectively transition. In these areas, people become more skeptical in part due to lack of awareness.
  • Assuming all costs are equal, only 37% and 35% of people are comfortable with nuclear and hydrogen energy, respectively. For hydrogen, 45% of people indicated they were either neutral or not familiar. Importantly, for both of these sources of energy, people believe they are more likely to reduce energy prices than fossil fuels in the long run (37% for nuclear energy, 24% for hydrogen and 20% for fossil fuels). Additionally, only one-fifth of people surveyed indicated they would purchase an electric vehicle over a gas-powered or hybrid vehicle if pricing and features were equal.    

Digitalization in financial services and retail – and GLP-1s in healthcare – present new opportunities for businesses, but generational attitudes vary among people.

Banking and financial services: “Banks are investing to meet elevated customer expectations, particularly Gen Z and millennials, who desire a tech sector-like experience in this era of digital disruption. Those who can effectively balance the delivery of quality services while addressing trust concerns will be best positioned for future growth.”

Peter Torrente, KPMG U.S. Banking and Capital Markets Sector Leader

  • One in four consumers are contemplating or have already used alternative lending platforms such as peer-to-peer lending or microfinance institutions to borrow money, most notably 39% and 37% of Gen Z and millennials, respectively.
  • Brick-and-mortar branches still hold value for consumers. Only 43% of consumers are open to transitioning to a bank or financial institution that operates solely through digital and online channels, provided it offers comparable services to traditional brick-and-mortar branches. About one-third (32%) would not consider switching even with comparable services and 26% are unsure.
  • However, roughly 50% of Gen Z and millennial consumers would consider doing their banking solely via digital online platforms if services are comparable to brick-and-mortar branches. Millennials (39%) and especially Gen Z (48%) already find chatbots helpful in addressing banking needs and questions. 

Healthcare: “The emergence and subsequent proliferation of GLP-1s highlight the power of targeted therapies but also the complexities of issues such as access, payment and over reliance on a single remedy to address the multifactorial obesity epidemic. Leaders across the ecosystem must look for ways to work with one another to equally contribute to holistic solutions designed to address the epidemic with the goal of long-term wellness, not a quick fix.” 

Kristin Pothier, KPMG U.S. Life Sciences Sector Leader

  • Only 34% of people do not believe GLP-1s are important to them personally. Among all other respondents, 35% believe they are likely to be either very important to their overall health and quality of life (18%) or important to reducing weight or addressing a specific health need (17%). One-fifth are concerned GLP-1s are too risky, which is consistent across generations.
  • Across all respondents, Gen Z (29%) and millennials (28%) are more likely to indicate GLP-1s are important or very important compared with Gen X (22%) and boomers (18%).
  • Gen Z and millennials are also more likely to be willing to pay higher health insurance premiums for access (28% and 21% respectively, compared with 15% overall).
  • However, very few people across all generations are willing to pay more than $100 out of pocket per month for GLP-1s.

Retail: “While not in the prime spending phase of life, today's Gen Z consumer is still reshaping the future of retail with their choices and tech-savvy approach. Retail and consumer packaged goods companies must consider how they can develop strong sustainable relationships with Gen Z today and have their pulse as these consumers move through generations.”

Duleep Rodrigo, KPMG U.S. Consumer and Retail Sector Leader

  • All generations are hunting for discounts (65%), with 14% reporting they will use more buy now, pay later services.
  • People plan to do more in-person shopping (33%).
  • Looking across generations, Gen Z shopping habits differ from other generations, including millennials.
    • Gen Z is focusing on shopping with sustainability in mind even if it means higher prices (31% vs. 20% overall).
    • They are also shopping via social media (31% vs. 12% overall). Roughly 20% of Gen Z reports using social media apps to shop on a weekly basis, with another 22% using it monthly.
    • Gen Z and millennials report similar rates of using buy now, pay later services (~20%) and brand-specific apps to shop (25%). 

Despite cybersecurity concerns, people want government agencies to use more technology, specifically GenAI, to improve their experience with accessing government services.

“Embracing technology is no longer an option, but a vital imperative for government agencies. In an era of constant change and increasing constituent expectations, leveraging technology is the key to delivering efficient and effective public services. By embracing emerging technologies such as GenAI, agencies can enhance transparency, streamline operations and improve constituent engagement.”

Lorna Stark, KPMG U.S. Government and Healthcare Line of Business Leader

  • There is significant room for government agencies to leverage more technology. Only 30% of respondents said government agencies are adequately leveraging technology to improve their interactions with constituents, while 29% disagree.
  • However, generational attitudes vary. Gen Z (46%) and millennials (37%) are more likely to believe government agencies are adequately leveraging technology to improve their interactions with people, compared with just 23% of Gen X and 25% of boomers.
  • People view GenAI as a means to improve their experience with many government services beyond the DMV and healthcare benefits, including social security benefits (49%), tax services (49%) and veteran services and programs (49%). 
  • Despite expecting government agencies to use technology to a greater extent, people also expressed more concern about a possible cybersecurity breach at a government agency compromising their data than at a private sector company (54%). 

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