When Ronald Reagan ran for president in 1980, his most memorable line was "Are you better off then you were four years ago?"
To paraphrase Reagan, I'd ask are you better off than you were 12 months ago?
The economic statistics suggest that things were pretty much the same in January 2017 as they were last month.
To be sure two numbers have changed notably - household net worth and the dollar.
Here are the four ways that you are in pretty much the same position now as you were a year ago.
1. Economic growth about the same
Economic growth as measured by Gross Domestic Product (GDP) grew at a slightly faster rate in 2017 than it did in 2016. According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) Real - inflation adjusted -- GDP increased at an annual rate of 2.6% in the fourth quarter of 2017. In 2016, Real GDP increased 2.3% - a considerable improvement from 2015's 1.5% growth.
2. Inflation still low
Inflation has remained low for the last several years. Indeed the rate of inflation for consumer expenditures - the so-called Personal Consumption Expenditures (PCE) inflation rate - remained below 2%. In 2017, "the PCE price index increased 1.7%, compared with an increase of 1.2%. Excluding food and energy prices, the PCE price index increased 1.5%, compared with an increase of 1.8%," according to the BEA.
3. Disposable and family income still rising slightly
Disposable personal income rose at about the same rate in the final quarter of 2016 as it did in the same period of 2017. "Disposable personal income increased $139.0 billion, or 3.9%, in the fourth quarter of 2017," according to the BEA, which noted that in the final quarter of 2016, "disposable personal income increased $130.2 billion, or 3.7%."
Family income has improved slightly in the last year. In November 2017 median household income in the U.S. rose to an estimated $58,741, according to the BEA, which was 0.9% above November 2016's $58,221.
4. Unemployment rate even lower
Chances are better that you have a job. The unemployment rate which peaked at 10% in October 2009 has declined from 4.8% in January 2017 to 4.1% by December 2017, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Here are three ways that things have changed considerably -- and they might help you.
1. Spending more of your savings
But the consumer savings rate has declined. The BEA noted that the personal savings rate, as measured by "personal saving as a percentage of disposable personal income -- was 5.6%" in the final quarter of 2016. In the fourth quarter of 2017 declined substantially to 2.6%.
That could be good -- unless a rainy days comes along.
2. Higher household net worth
The value of a typical household's assets minus its liabilities has increased considerably. Household net worth has rose 8% from $89,730 in the third quarter of 2016 to $96,939 in the third quarter of 2017, according to the Federal Reserve.
This increase was likely abetted by a rise in the stock market. To be sure, since the bottom of the most recent recession in March 2009, the S&P 500 has increased at a 16.7% annual rate, dramatically exceeding the 7% long-term rate of increase in common stocks. In the last year, stocks have risen even faster - the S&P 500 was up 25.2% in the year ending January 26.
3. Declining value of the dollar
But the most notable change in the last 12 months has been the significant decline in the value of the dollar. For example, compared to the Euro, the dollar has declined 16% from $1.07 per Euro on January 29, 2017 to $1.24 per Euro January 29, 2018.
One important reason for the dollar's decline has been that the U.S. economy is not improving as much as is the Eurozone's. According to news site, Quartz, "the eurozone had its best economic year in a decade and traders piled on bets that the currency would continue to climb. [By the end of December 2017], the US dollar weakened by more than 12% against the euro in the year. US stock markets meanwhile broke record after record this year, climbing to new heights amid positive company earnings and relatively strong economic growth."
Analysts expect that the dollar could drop another 10% in 2018. As Quartz reported, Goldman Sachs expects a 'soggy dollar, meaning a dollar that has 'all but finished pricing the relative strength of the US vs. the global economy.' UBS and Lombard Odier expect the euro to keep gaining against the dollar, while strategists at French Bank Société Générale see the dollar falling another 10%, first against the euro then against the yen."
If you're exporting goods, a weak dollar would help you increase your sales since you could price them more cheaply - thus making them a better value to potential customers..
On the other hand, if you're looking to visit overseas, your money will not go as far as it did a year ago.