Americans are still grappling with high inflation — the consumer price index was 6.5% in December — and even the wealthy are teetering on the edge.
About 6-in-10 Americans were living paycheck to paycheck in November, according to a recent report produced by commerce data platform PYMNTS and personal loans website LendingClub.
And even those who earn six-figure incomes are feeling the financial pressure of inflation.
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About 47% of Americans who earn over $100,000 were living paycheck to paycheck as well — up 4% since the month before.
There are financial consequences up ahead for the millions of Americans barely have enough cash to meet their basic expenses.
Purchasing power is decreasing
Although wages have been increasing in general, they haven’t been increasing fast enough to keep up with inflation according to an October report from the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas.
For a majority of employed workers, the median decline in real wages when factoring in inflation is over 8.5% — the biggest pay cut in 25 years, said the researchers. If you’re one of them, this means your purchasing power is being severely eroded.
More than half of respondents in the PYMNTS study noted increases in their monthly bills, and many said that it was impacting their ability to save for short-term goals.
Credit card debt is rising
As Americans struggle to keep up with the ballooning costs of consumer goods, many are turning to credit cards to fill the gap.
Credit card balances climbed by $38 billion in the third quarter of 2022, reported the Federal Reserve Bank of New York in November. This could be continuing to increase as the paycheck to paycheck lifestyle becomes more prevalent.
The PYMNTS study also indicates that 24% of those living paycheck to paycheck cite that paying off debt is their most important long-term financial goal.
The federal fund rate got hit with another hike by the central bank in mid December, which means the interest rates on your outstanding credit card balances are increasing too.
According to the most recent data from LendingTree, the average credit card interest rate in the U.S. has risen to 23.39% — up from 22.91% the previous month.
Savings are dwindling
Many consumers are barely making ends meet — let alone have room at the end of the month to fill up their savings accounts.
The most recent data from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis shows that the U.S. personal savings rate dropped to 2.4% in November, compared to 7.1% from the same time last year. The rate refers to personal savings as the percentage of income left over after you pay taxes and spend money.
And in life insurance company New York Life’s Wealth Watch Survey, respondents said they dipped into their savings just to cover their basic everyday expenses — taking out an average $616.73.
Many Americans are also dipping into their retirement money to deal with unexpected expenses..
One in five Americans have dipped into the 401(k)s or IRAs to cover an emergency expense, according to a survey by NY Sports Day.
Americans steadily depleting their cash reserves in order to compensate for the effects of inflation is becoming a major concern as experts predict a recession could hit sometime in 2023.
Experts like Suze Orman say it's important to have some emergency funds saved up in case of an unexpected financial crisis, such as a job loss, pay cut or even car trouble.
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