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Solid Index Findings: Americans Define Themselves Based on Finances, But Don't Invest in Their Fiscal Futures

Oct 14, 2009

The economic contraction has highlighted the internal duel between Americans' beliefs and actions according to the latest Solid Index, a survey by SunTrust Banks that studies Americans' emotions and perceptions toward their finances. The Solid Index revealed that while more than half (58 percent) of the respondents feel that their financial situation contributes to their perceptions of self-worth, 40 percent of American adults will not be enrolling in a retirement plan this year.

The most recent survey is the fourth in a series of six throughout 2009 and it investigated Americans' thoughts around benefits enrollment, the contributors of their self-worth and their reactions to the recession. In addition to their financial situation, the findings revealed that 55 percent of Americans feel that their job contributes to their sense of self-worth, with 43 percent citing their salary and more than a third (37 percent) noting their possessions.

"It is surprising and unsettling that many Americans are neglecting to properly invest in their future even while using their financial situation as a litmus test for their self worth," said Rilla Delorier, chief marketing officer for SunTrust Banks. "In this current economic situation it may seem difficult to invest in one's retirement, but proper planning and budgeting can lead to solid behaviors and help individuals feel good about themselves now and in the future."

  Other key findings of Americans' reactions to the recession include:

  --  Almost two thirds (64 percent) feel that they are obligated to feel
      grateful for having a job in today's economy.
  --  Penny pinching is getting old, with 54 percent stating they are tired
      of cutting back on the little things.
      --  To combat the restrictions of penny pinching, 93 percent said that
          they have purchased an item in the last three months to give
          themselves a "pick me up".

  --  Women are significantly more likely than men to indulge themselves by
      spending on clothes (59% vs. 43% men), while men tend to be more
      interested in splurging on electronics (30% vs. 18% women).

Not all reactions to the economic turbulence have been negative. One in two respondents stated that the economy has caused them to spend more quality time with their family, bringing them closer, despite the fact that 55 percent believe a night out with the family has become unaffordable. Additionally, many reported becoming more generous due to the economy by helping their friends, family and neighbors save money by giving away hand-me-down clothes (66 percent), preparing meals for others (55 percent), babysitting (38 percent) and doing renovations (37 percent).

"While Americans are challenged by this economy, they are finding new ways to enjoy their families and friends, whether it's spending more time together or swapping a solid - that is, supporting and helping each other with favors instead of paying others to do it for them," added Delorier. "These types of solid behaviors underscore the generosity and resiliency of Americans."

The Solid Index was conducted by StrategyOne as a five-question, single wave telephone omnibus survey among a census representative sample of 1,000 American adults aged 18 and older. The next wave of SunTrust's Solid Index will be released this December.

About SunTrust Banks, Inc.

SunTrust Banks, Inc., headquartered in Atlanta, is one of the nation's largest banking organizations, serving a broad range of consumer, commercial, corporate and institutional clients. As of June 30, 2009, SunTrust had total assets of $176.7 billion and total deposits of $118.8 billion. The Company operates an extensive branch and ATM network throughout the high-growth Southeast and Mid-Atlantic states and a full array of technology-based, 24-hour delivery channels. The Company also serves customers in selected markets nationally. Its primary businesses include deposit, credit, trust and investment services. Through various subsidiaries the Company provides mortgage banking, insurance, brokerage, investment management, equipment leasing and capital markets services. SunTrust's Internet address is

First Call Analyst: Putnam, Eugene
FCMN Contact:

SOURCE: SunTrust Banks, Inc.

CONTACT: Hugh Suhr, SunTrust, +1-404-827-6813,;
or Yona Benstock, Edelman for SunTrust, +1-404-460-1491,