Commentary

The Resilient American

For the past two years, American consumers have been barraged by bad economic news and political uncertainty. Today, the economy remains in flux, with high unemployment and continuing home foreclosures.

But despite the turmoil, the American identity still appears unchanged. We at About.com recently completed a deep dive into understanding consumer attitudes as it relates to finance and small business, and the clearest message is our enduring confidence in ourselves: in the individual's ability to overcome tough conditions given enough elbow grease, information and time.

Despite the mixed economic outlook, our entrepreneurial users look to the future and see opportunity. Forty-four percent expressed that they had all the confidence they needed to maintain or launch their own business.

Among the seven reasons they cited for breaking out on their own? Only one -- a tight job market -- might be construed as a negative. Overwhelmingly, 55 percent reported wanting to be their own boss, while 49 percent cited passion for an idea, product or service, and 48 percent desired more flexibility.

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Those seeking to better manage their own finances also have a marked self-confidence. While they have a great deal in common with behavior we've found across our categories - placing a premium on trusted brands, alongside trusted content, they were independent minded when it came to seeking out financial information, trusting online tools as much as offline experts. In fact, they place as much in store online - 48 percent - as financial planners, bankers and other professionals, surpassing advice sought from friends, family, and colleagues.

Consistent with our previous findings, we are continuing to see the shift to online marketing. Those who were already in the small business space indicated that they planned an increased investment in online marketing platforms such as blogs, e-mail marketing, social media and advertising on content relevant Web sites, according to our About.com 2010 business and personal finance study.

Regarding receptiveness to online ads, entrepreneurs are looking for a tangible benefit, just as they seek support in the tools that technology can offer and personal empowerment through business & financial content. Over 60 percent indicated that they want ads that educate them about relevant goods and services, while 42 percent sought ads that featured printable tips. In this sense, with regards to appeal and impact, they are all business.

If there is a constant that binds the mindful consumer to the hopeful entrepreneur, it's an enduring American spirit. After a year of rebuilding their personal savings, consumers are now looking forward to the kind of vacation you really can write home about. This can-do attitude is also epitomized in their ambitious career plans - striking out on their own not because they were downsized but because of outsized dreams.

While some remain cautiously optimistic about the state of our economy and what might be in store for the future, others are beginning to see new opportunities and are aggressively pursuing them - even if it means a short-term sacrifice for a long-term dream. Whatever path they choose, their sense of themselves as resourceful and resilient is entirely intact.

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