With the cost of living rapidly rising, the number of Americans who live paycheck-to-paycheck appears to be rising just as fast.
LendingClub Corporation, in partnership with PYMNTS.com, has released its periodic study of consumer spending patterns and found that 61% of consumers spend all of their money between pay periods. That’s up from 52% a year ago.
According to LendingClub, living paycheck-to-paycheck is the most common financial lifestyle in the U.S., with increasingly more high-income consumers now entering that category. However, the researchers also report that an estimated 33.5 million U.S. consumers – about 13% – actually spent more than they earned in the past six months by tapping savings or going into debt.
Inflation is a complicating factor
After the lowest income group, the survey shows that higher-income households are the most likely to barely scrape by. The biggest rise in paycheck-to-paycheck living occurred among consumers in households that earned between $100,000 and $150,000. Paycheck-to-paycheck living rates were up11% year-over-year in May 2022, and were at 52% in June 2022. That period coincides with a jump in the inflation rate.
"What a difference a year makes. Last summer we were all worried about how quickly the economy would recover. Now, as inflation continues its upwards swing, consumers are finding it more difficult to manage spending and are eating into their savings as financial pressures mount," said Anuj Nayar, LendingClub's Financial Health Officer.
The survey found that 77% of households earning less than $50,000 a year were living paycheck-to-paycheck in June, which should come as no surprise. However, that’s a slight improvement from April when 79% of those households were in that category.
The generation that lived through the Great Depression had the highest savings rate of any modern demographic. Today, even high-wage-earners are more likely to spend all their money between paychecks.
A slight improvement in savings
Consumers in households that earn more than $200,000 a year are the only ones that actually saved a little more in June than in April. That group is also the most likely to have investments in stocks and bonds, and half of all investors reported their portfolios losing money in the last three months.
But even with declining assets and rising prices, Nayar says there is no evidence that consumers are slowing their spending habits. This could make them more financially vulnerable.
“Not only is it going to be difficult for them to handle future emergency expenses, but even foreseen payments like education, student loans, or housing expenses may be harder to balance for the everyday American consumer," Nayar said.