“Financial inclusion,” defined as individuals and businesses having access to useful and affordable financial products, has declined in the U.S., according to new industry research.
The U.S. fell to fourth place, from second, this year in the second annual Global Financial Inclusion Index compiled by the Centre for Economics and Business Research in London and Des Moines, Iowa-based Principal Financial Group. Singapore continued to hold the top spot.
Singapore is followed by Hong Kong, Switzerland, the U.S. and Sweden in the 2023 rankings, according to the research, which examined 42 markets worldwide. Singapore’s small size, with a population of just six million people, helps it in the ranking, but it is also boosted by its commitment to financial literacy, financial technology adoption and employer support.
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A country’s employers, financial systems and governments are the pillars for what makes a system inclusive, which, in turn, affects consumer sentiment.
Consumer sentiment in the U.S. is down across financial systems and employers but is especially pronounced when it comes to the government. The percentage of people who feel the government acts in a way that helps them feel financially included declined to 50% in 2023, from 72% in 2022. Political polarization, evident in developments such as the recent threat of a federal shutdown, make matters worse.
“It creates uncertainty and causes people to delay decisions that they might otherwise make about purchase around savings, and you don’t want to paralyze people’s decision-making around financial security,” Dan Houston, Principal Financial Group Chair and CEO, told CNBC in an exclusive interview.