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BASIC EXPENSES DRAIN CONSUMERS' CASH, POLL FINDS; PERSONAL-FINANCE WORRIES DRAG DOWN OVERALL CONFIDENCE

 NEW YORK, Nov. 17 /PRNewswire/ -- A marked majority of Americans, including more than half of the nation's most affluent consumers, have little or no money left after paying basic expenses, according to the latest Money Magazine/ABC News poll.
 In a question asked of 524 adults during the two weeks ending Nov. 14, fully 69 percent of respondents (up from 63 percent in 1986) said that after paying basic expenses such as food, shelter and clothing, they have "little" (32 percent) or "very little or no" (37 percent) money left. At least 81 percent of Americans with annual household income below $25,000 said that, as did more than half (51 percent) of those earning more than $50,000. Measured by gender, nearly three-quarters of women (73 percent) said they had little money after expenses, versus 65 percent of men.
 "The raises handed out the past few years have been skimpy," said Money managing editor Frank Lalli, "and that assumes you haven't been handed a pink slip."
 Meanwhile, mounting worries over Americans' personal finances led the weekly Money/ABC News Consumer Comfort Index to fall from the five-month high it had reached in each of the past two weeks. The eight-year-old Index fell two points, to -37, as Americans lost faith in their finances (53 percent negative, up two points) as well as in the current shape of the economy; the poll's other main component, gauging consumers' assessments of today's buying climate, held firm.
 Based on a random survey of 1,049 consumers across the country, ending Nov. 14, the Money/ABC News Consumer Comfort Index measures typical Americans' confidence in three basic areas: the national economy, their own finances, and their willingness to spend money. A separate question addresses Americans' assessments of their financial situations after paying basic expenses. The Index's record high was +8 in May 1986.
 The drop in Americans, ratings of their finances, to 53 percent negative, caused the poll's "personal finances" index to fall four points, to -6. Some 83 percent of respondents (up one point) rated the economy negatively, lowering the survey's economic index two points, to -66. And seven in 10 (70 percent) continued to say now is not a good time to spend, keeping the poll's "buying climate" index at -40 for the third week in a row.
 As the Congressional votes on the North American Free Trade Agreement approached, the confidence gap between self-described Republicans (demographic index; -12, up four points this week and 16 points since Oct. 17) and Democrats (-49, down three points, 10 points over four weeks) continued to widen, with the former group growing increasingly more optimistic and the latter growing gloomier; confidence among political independents (-42, down four points, five since Oct. 17) has remained relatively stable.
 Regionally, confidence dove in the Northeast (regional index: -33, down five points) and West (-46, down five points this week and 22 points since Oct. 17's two-year high), the latter where 88 percent of respondents are negative on the economy and 75 percent are down on spending, each the most regionally. Confidence fell slightly in the Midwest (-29, down one point) but rose in the South (-40, up one point).
 The Money/ABC News Consumer Comfort Index fell rapidly as the recession began, plunging to -43 in October 1990. It rebounded after the Persian Gulf War, rising to -29 in April 1991. But from July 1991 until February 1992, it declined steadily, hitting its record low, -50, on Feb. 9. The Index hit a series of peaks and valleys in 1992, coming within one point of its record low in November. It rose steadily in the weeks following Bill Clinton's election but has remained generally sluggish throughout 1993. The current poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points; the separate question's error margin is plus or minus 5 points.
 -0- 11/17/93
 /CONTACT: Patti Straus of Money Magazine, 212-522-2695/


CO: Money Magazine ST: New York IN: PUB SU:

TM-LD -- NY107 -- 5773 11/17/93 18:30 EST
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Date:Nov 17, 1993
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