Broad brush inspections of the U.S. economy continue to reinforce the good news: the overall economy is improving. Here's why:
•There are more jobs — so many in Tampa Bay, for example, that with a 3.8 percent metro-wide jobless rate we are technically at "full employment." Flatlining wages since the recession are starting to creep up.
• Home prices are rising vigorously in Florida and Tampa Bay, and replenishing the home equity coffers of homeowners after the housing collapse of a decade ago.
• The stock market keeps pushing into record territory. The Dow keeps pressing above 21,000. That's nearly three times what it was in March of 2009 — a remarkable ascent in eight short years.
So everything's great, right? They're good for many, but not all folks are prospering.
Where do you stand on the ladder economic prosperity?
Take this simple test of eight questions. Each answer is assigned a number. Add up all the numbers attached to your answers and see where you rank. Details at the end.
1. What's my employment situation?
a. A full-time job with benefits. (4 points)
b. Several part-time jobs, no benefits. (2 points)
c. Part-time work but it does not pay enough to be independent. (1 point)
d. Unemployed. (0 point)
2. How's my paycheck?
a. I make good money and get decent raises. (4 points)
b. My paycheck is pretty much flat and going nowhere. (2 points)
c. I make close to minimum wage and need more work to make ends meet. (1 point)
d. What's a raise? (0 point)
3. Where do I live?
a. I own my home and have an affordable mortgage. (4 points)
b. I rent and am happy not hassling with home ownership. (4 points)
c. I bought a house but am having trouble keeping up with payments. (2 points)
d. I live in my parent's basement. (0 point)
4. Will I be able to retire?
a. I am retired and living the good life. (4 points)
b. I am still working but not sure I can save enough to retire by 65. (2 points)
c. Social Security will see me through. (1 point)
d. I can't afford to save for day-to-day needs much less a retirement. (0 point)
5. How's that soaring Dow?
a. I have money in the stock market and am building a nest egg thanks to the bull market. (4 points)
b. I do not trust stocks after the 2009 market crash but I try to save in other ways .(3 points)
c. I did not take advantage of 401(k) or other retirement plans where I work. Is it too late? (1 point)
d. The Florida Lottery's Powerball is in the news. I'm feeling lucky. (0 point)
6. How far did I get in school?
a. Got a four-year or advanced degree that makes me competitive for a range of decent paying jobs. (4 points)
b. Got technical training for in-demand jobs that do not require college but pay pretty well. (3 points)
c. Made it through high school. (1 point)
d. Fries with that? (0 point)
7. Do I go to doctors on a regular basis?
1. I go to medical doctors and dentists regularly and have adequate health insurance. (4 points)
2. I have Affordable Care Act coverage though I'm not sure how long that will last. (2 points)
3. I rarely get sick and will take my chances without health coverage. (1 point)
4. I do not have coverage and go to emergency rooms when necessary. (0 point)
8. How's my debt?
a. I have no debt. (4 points)
b. I pay off my credit card more often than not and try to manage my expenses. (3 points)
c. I have student loan debt which makes it hard to save money for important things. (2 points)
d. I'm way over my head and debt collectors keep calling. (0 point)
Now add up your points and see where you likely landed on the prosperity ladder:
• 24-32 points: You did well. Though you are no Bill Gates, you are likely in good financial shape to be independent and able to retire in reasonable comfort.
• 16-23 points: You have some financial strengths but also weaknesses. Rethink your money matters so you have time to get on a better track for saving and retirement.
• 8-15 points: If you are young, there may still be time to turn around your pending financial disaster. If you're nearing middle age or retirement, you're probably facing hard times. Either way, seek professional financial help.
• Less than 8 points: Ouch. Reach out to agencies, charities, churches, friends and family.
Contact Robert Trigaux at [email protected] Follow @venturetampabay.