This may not come as a surprise to the majority of Americans, but a new report reveals what’s going on just below the surface in home across the country. More than 75 percent of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck. Many of us are feeling more confident, but that confidence extends just so far as we’ve yet to recoup our lost savings from the recession. And an emergency fund? Not even on the radar for most.
Paycheck to Paycheck – No Plan B
That means there’s no Plan B in case of job losses, medical emergencies or any of the other unpredictable events that happen on a daily basis. About 20 percent of Americans have six months in salary put back and half have three months of a financial cushion. There’s also another reality: even though many Americans are beginning to feel a bit more hopeful for the future, the savings dynamic hasn’t changed since the heart of the recession. It begs the question as to just how much better things really are. Are we wishing thinking? Maybe we’re just optimistic and trying to vision it in our minds to see it in our bank accounts?
That’s possible considering the poll shows that one quarter of Americans have less than $100 in savings and half had less than $500 in savings. The cost of living is going up, from child care to groceries to utilities – we’re paying more money these days, which brings living paycheck to paycheck to an entirely new level.
There really hasn’t been much relief,
said Megan Stanton, director of marketing for CashNetUSA
The economy is stagnant; $100 is not enough to help you out in an emergency.
Our Kids and Grandmas
But that’s not all. Society’s most vulnerable: our children and senior citizens – are taking the brunt of the hits. In 48 states, seniors are facing “serious income shortages”. Mike Sante, Managing Editor of Interest.com, the site that conducted the research, said,
We found that many senior citizens are significantly underfunded and risk running out of money, especially since people are living longer than they used to and may need to support a two or three-decade retirement.
He goes on to explain that Social Security is the main source of income for many retired Americans. Many believe it’s pensions or retirements – but it’s not. The average Social Security payment for a retired worker at the start of 2012 was only $1,230 a month – or just $14,760 a year.
This comes on the heels of another report released by CFPB this past month. It found that older consumers have “unique vulnerabilities” and as a result, are more likely to be the targets of fraud. Both the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act tasked the CFPB’s Office of Financial Protection for Older Americans (Office for Older Americans) to make recommendations that will help older consumers identify the most appropriate financial adviser and verify a financial adviser’s credentials. Because their budgets are so tight, it’s more important now than ever before. Of course, there’s no one single solution, especially when it comes to finances, but the goal should always be to ensure no one is attempting to take advantage of waning cognitive skills in order to take from this vulnerable age group, said the report.
Kids and Poverty
Children are left vulnerable, as well. Another report released last week tells the tale. Children are living in poverty far longer than they were a few years ago and as a result, their futures are at risk. The Annie E. Casey Foundation, an advocacy group for children, discovered that fewer of our little ones have health insurance and the long term repercussions of the extended recession include a higher propensity of dropping out of high school, becoming pregnant and they often have less success in finding a job. The transition to adulthood, says Patrick McCarthy, president of the Case Foundation, is often difficult for these kids. They are also far more likely to be unbanked or underbanked and they may experience higher credit card debt and bankruptcies.
Another interesting element includes regional differences. The northeast appears to have fewer problems in that respect; however, children in the south and southwest are more likely to live in poverty and experience the negatives such as job losses and financial struggles. In some states, it was a mixed bag. For instance, in Maryland, there’s been a 10 percent drop in kids who drop out of high school and a 16 percent declined in teen birth rates. Unfortunately, 179,000 children – or 14 percent – were living in poverty in 2011, an increase of 27 percent since 2005.
Virginia shares that same mixed bag. In terms of education, the state has made many improvements that have translated into a much stronger foundation. In 2005, there was a 26 percent dropout rate; by 2013, that number was down to 19 percent. Teen pregnancy fell from 34 thousand to 27 thousand. Unfortunately, the child poverty rate is now at the highest in the state’s history.
And what about the Capital? More than 12 percent of DC teenagers between 16 and 19 were not only not in school, but they had no jobs. A whopping 30 percent of children in the District live in poverty and as one might expect, that’s significantly higher than national average of 23 percent. The worst part is this 30 percent is actually right in the middle of all states’ statistics.
In terms of the job market for teens, it’s declining as well as more are competing for the jobs usually reserved for these teenagers. If you’re wondering, it’s not been this bad since the early 1950s. Nationally, 68 percent of fourth graders can’t read at their proper levels and more than 65 percent of 8th graders are not proficient in math.
There are a number of encouraging statistics, particularly in the area of education,
with the caveat that it’s an improvement from dismal to just awful.
The recession might officially be over, but for too many, the heavy burdens have yet to ease.
How would you classify your finances? How did your family weather the recession and do you think you’ve come out of it completely? Share your thoughts with us.