Here's How We Measure Financial Pleasure and Pain

Trying to understand big financial trends often means wading through all kinds of absurdly named benchmarks. But the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants has maybe come up with the most straightforward one: Its Personal Financial Satisfaction Index looks at pleasure and pain as it relates to your wallet. The nation's feedback isn't good, however — and we may know the culprit.

For the last quarter of 2018, average Americans gave their own financial feelings a thumbs-down for the first time in two years. With a volatile stock market behind us and an uncertain tax season ahead, survey respondents aren't so confident the economy will be treating them well. The index is tied into some broader measures, such as national job openings and utilities performance, but anecdotally, it does rhyme with some other worries expressed by analysts and non-experts alike.

Not only are some Wall Street watchers convinced a bear market is on its way, but economists have been calling a 2020 recession since last spring. Nearly two-thirds of Americans say their personal financial standing hasn't improved since the 2016 presidential election, and real wages — our dollars' spending power — are fading. Not everything is grim and hopeless, though: Whether your path to financial satisfaction is improving your overall literacy or finding the right passive income stream, there's plenty you can do to help yourself. Taking action, however small, is a great way to get out of any funk. It might sound painful, but it will always pay off.