With inflation at 40-year highs, workers across all income levels are having a harder time making ends meet.
As of May, 58% of Americans — roughly 150 million adults — live paycheck to paycheck, according to a new LendingClub report. That’s down slightly from 61% who reported living paycheck to paycheck in April but up from 54% in May 2021.
Even top earners say they are stretched thin, the report found. Of those earning $250,000 or more, 30% are living paycheck to paycheck. (Another recent survey, from consulting firm Willis Towers Watson, estimated 36% of those earning $100,000 or more are living paycheck to paycheck.)
“Consumers have experienced a tough last couple of years as different factors have affected their financial lifestyle, and there seems to be little relief in sight,” said Anuj Nayar, LendingClub’s financial health officer.
With inflation, paychecks don’t stretch as far
The consumer price index, a key inflation gage, rose 8.6% in May from a year ago, the highest increase since December 1981, spurred by surging housing, gasoline and food costs.
Those rising prices meant workers took another pay cut during the month.
When wages rise at a slower pace than inflation, paychecks won’t stretch as far at the grocery store or the gas pump — making it more difficult to cover monthly expenses and set some money aside.
Credit card balances contribute to financial vulnerability
Those struggling to afford their day-to-day lifestyle tend to rely more on credit cards and carry a higher monthly balance, making them financially vulnerable, the survey said.
Overall, credit card balances rose year over year, reaching $841 billion in the first three months of 2022, according to a separate report from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
At this rate, balances could soon reach record levels amid higher prices for gas, groceries and housing, among other necessities, according to Ted Rossman, a senior industry analyst at CreditCards.com.
For its part, the Federal Reserve has been hiking its target federal funds rate in an effort to calm runaway inflation.
However, anyone carrying a balance will also see the annual percentage rate on their credit card head higher as the Fed continues to raise rates to try and tamp down rising prices.