Two in five struggling to make ends meet, bureau finds in ‘financial well-being’ survey

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Millions of American adults – more than two in every five – struggle to make ends meet, and more than one-third of all consumers reported experiencing material hardships in the past year, according to the results of a “financial well-being” survey released Tuesday.

The survey, conducted by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) in 2016, provided measurements and insights on the financial well-being of specific groups of consumers as well as the population as a whole, the bureau said in a release.

The results showed that 43% of consumers report struggling to pay bills, CFPB stated. Regarding “material hardships,” the results showed 34% reported running out of food, not being able to afford a place to live, or lacking the money to seek medical treatment. Those areas were all examples of material hardships.

The consumer bureau called the survey a “first-of-its-kind national survey on the financial well-being of U.S. consumers” using a 10-question scale developed by the agency. Upon answering the 10 questions provided, consumers were given a score from 0-100. In the survey, the average consumer score was 54.

CFPB said the consumer sample used to conduct the survey was designed to be representative of U.S. households.

In addition to responding to the questions which were included in the financial well-being scale, people participating in the survey answered questions about a host of other measures, CFPB said. These measures include individual, household, and family characteristics; income and employment; savings and safety nets; financial experiences; and money behaviors, skills, and attitudes.

Additionally, the bureau said the survey found that educational attainment, income, and employment status all appear to have a strong relationship with financial well-being. Further, that financial well-being is higher for older adults, especially those aged 65 and older, whose average score was 61. On the other end of the spectrum, younger adults, those 34 and younger, tended to have the lowest financial well-being score with an average of 51.

Financial Well-Being in America report