MIAMI (CBS4) – The economic recovery may be years away from ending, but there have been some steady gains in South Florida and across the country that is giving some economists hope heading into the second quarter starting Sunday.

For Miami machinist Julio Geraldo, that optimism about the local economy hasn’t really materialized for him this year.

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“It probably got a little better last year, but it’s slowed down some,” Geraldo said.

But Miramar’s Raquel Aquirre disagreed, “I can’t complain, I hope it’s going to get better”

As the first quarter ends, Wall Street and South Florida have seen solid gains.

South Florida’s real estate recovery’s is among the best in the nation, thanks mainly to foreign cash sales. But over the past few months, some local selling prices are growing again.

Layoffs have slowed down, and some hiring’s improving while foreign trade and tourism around the area remained strong.

So what can we expect thru the second quarter?

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With the local economy growing, but no major new companies opening branches here, new job growth will remain slow. Local spending may be cautious following April’s tax season.

Rising consumer prices, including prices at local gas pumps and stagnant saleries will continue to hurt family finances and with possible spending cuts by consumers, Wall Street’s growth may retreat as well.

But South Florida’s economy should continue to see solid gains in tourism, foreign trade, and financial services boosted by the continued slow recovery of our real estate and construction sectors.

But the big wildcard remains those rising gas prices and it’s effects on the entire national recovery.

What does that mean to our family finances?

Decide if you need to increase your income tax witholding right now while tax season is fresh in your mind. You may end up owing less next year.

See if you can afford to put more money into your savings or investment accounts, and try paying down any credit card debt as soon as possible and if you’re planning for a summer vacation, now’s the time to start looking for the best deals.

It may be 9 months away, but it’s also a good time to consider a “Christmas Club Account” to start saving for all that end of the year spending.

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Consider using cash rather than charging up your credit cards. It’s all possible, if you can start planning right now.