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It's not the lack of jobs, it's the lousy pay, study says

More Americans are feeling unsure of your financial security but it’s not because of the tough job market.

It's all about those skimpy paychecks.

Stagnant wages for the majority of U.S. households have more consumers curbing their spending and worried about paying down debt, according to a Bankrate.com survey released Wednesday. Inflation-adjusted median family income has declined about 6 percent since it peaked at around $64,000 in 2000.

Bankrate.com’s Financial Security Index looks at job security, savings, debt, net worth and the overall financial situation of consumers; this month the index hit its lowest level since March and experienced its biggest monthly drop since last August. About 1,000 adults were polled via telephone interviews done nationally earlier this month.

Even with the unemployment rate still above 8 percent, surprisingly job security was the least affected part of the index. Most of those polled feel that the jobs outlook was the most improved component this year.

“What's really undermining consumer progress on financial security are stagnant wages,” said Greg McBride, Bankrate’s senior financial analyst. “If incomes aren’t growing it’s difficult for people to make headway on debt and savings.”

Indeed, the U.S. Commerce Department reported in June that consumer spending was unchanged and wages were essentially flat in May. 

Uncertainty over what many have called the “fiscal cliff” is keeping many businesses from hiring, expanding and making big investments, McBride explained. The cliff is referring to $600 billion worth of tax hikes and spending cuts that could automatically kick in January if Congress doesn’t find a compromise. Some economists have warned that it could push the U.S. economy into reverse. 

Bottom line, McBride added, “The economy is still stuck in first gear.”