Consumer confidence on the rise

A recent report from The Conference Board showed that consumer confidence increased substantially in November.

The Consumer Confidence Index for the month of November improved to 56 from the previous month's 40.9. The rating is still far below the basis of where confidence is considered healthy, which is a reading of 100. However, the sharp improvement may signal a turnaround in the economy which could boost the stock market and improve the standing of many retirement plans, encouraging increased saving.

The present situation index increased to 38.3 from the previous month's 27.1, the report noted. In addition, the expectation index increased to 67.8 from October's figure of 50.

"Confidence has bounced back to levels last seen during the summer," said Lynn Franco, director of The Conference Board's Consumer Research Center. "Consumers' assessment of current conditions finally improved, after six months of steady declines. Consumers' apprehension regarding the short-term outlook for business conditions, jobs and income prospects eased considerably. Consumers appear to be entering the holiday season in better spirits, though overall readings remain historically weak."

Consumers' thoughts of short-term economic issues improved, according to the report. Nearly 14 percent of Americans noted they think the next six months will be better financially, compared to only 10.2 percent in October. Those who think the situation will get worse dropped to 15.8 percent from approximately 21 percent last month. Present-day conditions also were getting better, the report noted. Those who think the current economic conditions are good rose to more than 13 percent from October's 11.2 percent. Those who think that the situation is bad dropped to slightly more than 38 percent compared to the previous month's 43.7 percent.

The improving financial situation may open up job opportunities for many baby boomers and retirees, which could help supplement their retirement incomes. Many experts have said that many of those approaching retirement don't have sufficient reserves to completely leave the workforce.

Nearly 6 percent of Americans said that jobs were plentiful in November, which is a notable increase from only 3.6 percent in October, according to the report. Another 42.1 percent thought that jobs were difficult to obtain, which was a drop from October's figure, which was close to 47 percent. However, the public's view of the job market improved, as nearly 13 percent of Americans think the number of available jobs will increase in the coming months, the report added. This figure was below 11 percent in the previous report. Consumers who think jobs will become more scarce dropped to 24.1 percent, from a previous measurement of 27.6 percent one month earlier.

While confidence seems quite mixed overall, the improvement may mean great things for the economy, as well as those who are trying to save for retirement in the long term.