Enrichment Education

70 percent of millennials are living paycheck to paycheck, report says

Story at a glance

  • A new report details that a significant number of Americans don’t have much flexibility when it comes to their finances.
  • Over 50 percent of Millennials, Generation Z and Generation X indicated they live paycheck to paycheck.
  • Even when looking across income brackets, nearly 42 percent of those making over $100,000 in annual income said they also live paycheck to paycheck.

Money is tight for many Americans right now, so much so that a growing share are living paycheck to paycheck, as inflation hits people’s wallets and even rising salaries can’t seem to keep up. 

A new report by PYMNTS and LendingClub, New Reality Check: The Paycheck-to-Paycheck Report, surveyed roughly 3,000 U.S. consumers from Dec. 2 to Dec. 14, 2021, and the results showed that 61 percent of consumers were living paycheck to paycheck. It’s a trend that researchers noted has been on a sharp rise since May 2021 and is now approaching pre-pandemic levels. 

The struggle isn’t shared equally, with the report finding 70 percent of millennials (ages 23-38) were living paycheck to paycheck, while 65 percent of Generation Z (ages 7-22) were too, along with nearly 60 percent of Generation X (ages 39-54) and about 54 percent of Baby Boomers and seniors (ages 55+). 

However, when it came to evaluating the data by income bracket, 42 percent of consumers making more than $100,000 in annual income indicated they also live paycheck to paycheck. 

Of those who have an annual income between $55,000 to $100,000, nearly 66 percent said they also live paycheck to paycheck, and close to 77 percent of those who make less than $50,000 annually said the same thing. 

This year, companies set aside an average of 3.9 percent of total payroll  for wage increases.  


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Interestingly, researchers noted that despite millennials having the highest percentage of consumers living paycheck to paycheck, they also reported the highest savings, with an average of $3,731. However, they also indicated having issues paying their monthly bills.  

Researchers found there was an interesting distinction among those consumers who live paycheck to paycheck when it comes to paying their bills, with 39 percent of those consumers saying they are able to pay their bills while 22 percent struggle to do so every month. 

When it comes to affording a $400 emergency expense, that was a challenge for close to half of the consumers surveyed who live paycheck to paycheck and struggle to pay their bills, with Generation X the most likely to be unable to afford that, at 59 percent.  

That’s consistent with a separate analysis done by Bankrate that found less than 50 percent of Americans could afford a last minute, $1,000 emergency.  

Researchers noted that consumers who live paycheck to paycheck and struggle to pay their bills are more likely to sell something, borrow money from family members or friends or use a credit card to pay an emergency expense than they are to use their own money from a checking or savings account.  

However, among those consumers who said they live paycheck to paycheck but don’t have issues paying bills, close to half of them across all generations would be able to cover emergency expenses with their own money through a checking or savings account.  

Inflation is a big factor in consumers’ financial woes, as a separate Quinnipiac University survey found that 27 percent of respondents see inflation as the country’s most urgent issue.  

This week the Labor Department released new data that revealed prices charged by producers rose 1 percent in January, twice the jump projected by economists. On an annual basis, the producer price index for final demand was up 9.7 percent.  

That’s consistent with consumer prices also rising faster in January than economists expected, with the Labor Department noting prices rose at an annual rate of 7.5 percent after 0.6 percent monthly increase. 


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