Although unemployment is low, jobs are plentiful, and by most accounts the US economy is in good health, CareerBuilder’s latest survey of the financial state of the US workforce paints a more troubling picture, finding that 78 percent of Americans are living paycheck-to-paycheck at least some of the time—that’s up from 75 percent in last year’s survey. Some of the more detailed findings include:
Thirty-eight percent of respondents said they live paycheck-to-paycheck sometimes, but 17 percent said they usually do and 23 percent said they always do.
- Women are more likely to live paycheck-to-paycheck (81 percent) than men (75 percent).
- One quarter of workers have been unable to make ends meet every month in the last year, and 20 percent said they had missed payment on some of their bills.
- Seventy-one percent said they were in debt, up from 68 percent last year, and more than half of those in debt believe they will never get out of it.
- Thirty-eight percent do not participate in a 401(k) plan, IRA, or other retirement plan, and 26 percent said they had not set aside any savings each month in the last year.
- Most workers (81 percent) had worked a minimum-wage job at some point, and 71 percent of them said they had not been able to make ends meet during that time.
And while low-income workers are relatively more likely to live paycheck-to-paycheck, they are by no means the only ones doing so, CareerBuilder notes—meaning even employers of well-compensated professionals should not ignore the financial wellness concerns of their employees:
Having a higher salary doesn’t necessarily mean money woes are behind you, with nearly one in 10 workers making $100,000 or more (9 percent) saying they usually or always live paycheck-to-paycheck and 59 percent in that income bracket in debt. Twenty-eight percent of workers making $50,000-$99,999 usually or always live paycheck to paycheck, 70 percent are in debt; and 51 percent of those making less than $50,000 usually or always live paycheck to paycheck to make ends meet, 73 percent are in debt.
“As an employer, your employees’ financial problems become your financial problems,” said Rosemary Haefner, chief human resources officer for CareerBuilder. “If workers are constantly thinking about their financial struggles, their quality of work can decrease, and it can take a hit on their morale and productivity. If you do what you can to help people keep their finances under control — by doing things such as matching 401(k) contributions or hosting financial planning seminars — you’ll ease some of their financial worries and it will be less likely to have a negative impact on your business.”
The survey, conducted by Harris Poll from May 24 to June 16, polled 2,369 full-time employers and 3,462 full-time workers. Other research with different methodology has put the number of Americans living paycheck-to-paycheck at a lower, though still quite high, number: A study published in June by the Center for Financial Services Innovation found that just under half of Americans have expenses equal to or greater than their income, including 54 percent of those aged 18-25.