It is perhaps a testament to the American spirit that an unyielding optimism will eventually overcome hard times.

Even as Americans struggle to save, with more than four in 10 living from paycheck-to-paycheck and eight percent who say they don’t earn enough each month to pay for essentials, most (91%) are confident in their ability to manage their personal finances, according to a recent survey by Allstate.

There is an even divide of 50% of respondents who feel that their personal financial situation is “excellent” or “good”, while another 50 percent say it is “fair” or “poor”.

In addition, 50% say they have enough money left over at the end of the month after paying for essentials according to the new, second installment of Allstate Financial's "Life Tracks" poll.

"This second Allstate Life Tracks Poll takes the pulse of Americans to measure the health of their personal financial situations," Don Civgin, president and chief executive officer of Allstate Financial said in a statement.

The survey, conducted by FTI Consulting, Inc. drew from a population of 1,000 American adults age 18+, from December 15-19 via landline and cellphone. It has a margin of error of +/- 3.1% in 95 out of 100 cases.

If the pulse is correct, it means that most Americans are continually scrapping for rations to pay off their debts.

Eighty-two percent of Americans say they make some kind of debt-related payment each month. 49% say they pay credit card debt, 43% mortgage payments, 36 percent car payments, 17% student loan payments, and 15% medical debts.

The survey also revealed that Americans spend just under three hours per week paying bills and managing their household finances. This is about a quarter of the time they say they spend watching television (12 hours), and one-third of the time they spend surfing the Internet (9.2 hours).

While 59% of Americans say they know what they're supposed to do and generally make the right decisions in regard to their personal finances, 40 percent admit they are not handling their personal finances in the way they're supposed to, or that they may not even know what to do.

Even so, there is an underlying optimism among Americans, with an overwhelming majority (91%) who believe personal financial management is a skill that someone can improve upon during their lifetime.

Whether or not this optimism is warranted, the bells have rung.

As a response to better management of personal finances, Americans should spend more time gathering relevant financial information, set goals and a timetable to achieve them, and make a date once a year for an annual life insurance check-up, according to a company statement.  

“Too many Americans are faced with financial challenges today that lead to an unstable future,” Civgin said. “As financial services professionals, how we bridge that gap and bring greater awareness to the financial issues people are facing, is the true test of measurable success in our industry."