Here's How Many Americans Are Living Paycheck To Paycheck (Hint: It's A Lot)

Is your family forced to count down the days each month until the next paycheck arrives?  If so, you're part of a staggering, and growing, majority of households in America, the richest country on the planet, that is forced to do the same.  

According to a new poll conducted by Harris Poll on behalf of CareerBuilder, over three-quarters of American households are forced to live paycheck to paycheck to make ends meet. 

More than three-quarters of workers (78 percent) are living paycheck-to-paycheck to make ends meet — up from 75 percent last year and a trait more common in women than men — 81 vs. 75 percent, according to new CareerBuilder research. Thirty-eight percent of employees said they sometimes live paycheck-to-paycheck, 17 percent said they usually do and 23 percent said they always do.


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.

Not surprisingly, the problem is even worse for minimum wage workers, 54% of whom say they have to work more than 1 job to cover their monthly expenditures. 

The majority of workers (81 percent) have worked a minimum wage job, and 71 percent of them were not able to make ends meet financially during that time — more than half (54 percent) had to work more than one job.


To alleviate some financial burden, 83 percent of employers that are hiring minimum wage workers this year (45 percent) will be raising the minimum wage at their organization.



Meanwhile, 57% of households say they can't afford to save even $100 a month.

Less than a third of workers (32 percent) stick to a clearly defined budget and a slight majority (56 percent) save $100 or less a month:

  • None: 26 percent
  • Less than $50: 15 percent
  • $51 to $100: 16 percent
  • $101 to $250: 14 percent
  • $251 to $500: 11 percent
  • $501 to $750: 5 percent
  • $751 to $1,000: 4 percent
  • More than $1,000: 10 percent

The scariest part of the poll, as CBS points out, is that the number of people living paycheck to paycheck is actually growing despite the fact that the Fed and our politicians continue to brag about near 'full employment.'

The survey highlights a troubling trend in household finances: More than eight years since the end of the recession, the share of Americans who are living on the financial edge is growing, said Mike Erwin, a spokesman for CareerBuilder. While some may want to blame Americans' spendthrift ways, Erwin pointed to two trends that continue to put financial stress on households: stagnant wages and the rising cost of everything from education to many consumer goods.


"Living paycheck to paycheck is the new way of life for U.S. workers," he said. "It's not just one salary range. It's pretty much across the board, and it's trending in the wrong direction."


A year ago, about 75 percent of U.S. workers said they were living from payday to payday, a number that has grown to 78 percent this year. The study, conducted by Harris Poll, surveyed nearly 2,400 hiring and human resource managers and 3,500 adult employees who worked full-time in May and June.

Meanwhile, employers seems to see straight through the 'full employment' charade because wage growth continues to be completely outcome that would seem inconceivable in an under-supplied market.

Weak wage growth is partly to blame for the financial stress felt by many Americans. Median household income is still stuck in low gear, with the U.S. Census reporting only one year of income gains since 2007, the year the recession officially started.


The end result: American households are still earning 2.4 percent below what they brought home at their income peaks in 1999. At the same time, expenses for food, fuel, education, housing and other costs have risen.


"Jobs have come back, but we haven't seen salaries rebound," Erwin said. "Right now we are in a time when the cost of living is way outpacing the amount of money that people are getting through raises."

Of course, the real question is precisely how many of these households live in a McMansion that's 2x larger than what they need for their family and drive around in brand new BMWs that get replaced with new leases every 3 years?


Offthebeach cossack55 Thu, 08/24/2017 - 20:00 Permalink

Fed needs a "Secure 'Merica Great Program" (SMEGMA)  whereby,  citizens, and others wink wink, can borrow against EBT, Disability, SS, Medicare, Future organ harvest or other Great Great Really Great Society Programs.  Why wait? Cash in your benefits NOW!  After all, you EARNED it!Plus this. will prime the pump, jumpstart the economy, get the ball rolling, pull demand forward....

In reply to by cossack55

factorypreset Kaiser Sousa Fri, 08/25/2017 - 00:04 Permalink

Thank goodness we have the smart folks at the Federal reserve to guide us through this difficult time. I mean, I get that they're the main reason we're in this predicament but this time it's gonna be different.  For example I got great advice from sweet old Janet Yellen - basically if I want to be well off I will do better at it by having rich parents.  See it's not that hard!  Gosh is she a smart lady.  Now I just have to figure out how to go back in time and be born to some rich people.  Easy peazy!

In reply to by Kaiser Sousa

Quantum Bunk Thu, 08/24/2017 - 19:07 Permalink

Dead serious when I say this. 70 years from now, this time will be looked upon as a form of slavery.People will wonder why the opiate epdemic and revolution/civil war didnt happen sooner.

Normalcy Bias Quantum Bunk Thu, 08/24/2017 - 20:25 Permalink

You're an optimist and humanitarian. I sincerely hope you are correct.I fear that mankind as a whole is far too selfish, greedy, short sighted, and evil a species to even survive another 70 years.Considering the ever quickening advancements in weaponry, gene manipulation, A.I., mind reading/control, and the ever increasing concentration of wealth, I just don't see how the species makes it even close to another 70 years.

In reply to by Quantum Bunk

Mena Arkansas Thu, 08/24/2017 - 19:11 Permalink

In Boulder, CO the unemployment rate is 1.8% - the lowest in the nation. And yet you still get employers saying this:Even with good pay — movers start at $11-$15 an hour; drivers $13-$16 — and benefits — a matching 401k, a rarity in the moving industry — his solicitations for hard workers went unanswered.…The average price of a house in Boulder is north of $1MM, but employers still consider $11-16/hr good pay.And they are shocked, SHOCKED that no one is interested in working for their shit wages.What fucking planet are they living on?

hardmedicine Mena Arkansas Thu, 08/24/2017 - 19:45 Permalink

"In Boulder, CO the unemployment rate is 1.8% - the lowest in the nation. And yet you still get employers saying this: Even with good pay — movers start at $11-$15 an hour; drivers $13-$16 — and benefits — a matching 401k, a rarity in the moving industry — his solicitations for hard workers went unanswered.  The average price of a house in Boulder is north of $1MM, but employers still consider $11-16/hr good pay. And they are shocked, SHOCKED that no one is interested in working for their shit wages. What fucking planet are they living on?"Every single sentence of this post bothers me..  1.8% unemployment?  REALLY??  REally?  Try 23%.  movers and drivers: not interested in working, that's because they are home living in the basement or back in their old bedroom NOT being counted as unemployed because they figure at 1MM for the average house they will never get out of paycheck to paycheck. Which is what this article is about............. PAYCHECK TO PAYCHECK.  Basically 80% of the general publiv has no security or back up plan if their tire blows or they have a tooth ache.  That is awfully close to saying we have a lot of people with nothing left to lose I think.

In reply to by Mena Arkansas

Silver Savior Thu, 08/24/2017 - 19:19 Permalink

Costs are up wages are down in real terms. Even if you do get a raise it probably won't even cover inflation . You just keep making less and less based on an illusion you are making more and more. It's sad.But when our Zimbabwe style inflation takes hold we will be making lots of money. It just won't be worth anything.

Iskiab Kidbuck Thu, 08/24/2017 - 19:41 Permalink

Still, fact remains looking at the data there are a lot of people working minimum or near minimum wage, and there are a lot more stupid people who spend more than they should. If you're making north of 100k there's no reason to have any debt outside a mortgage.

I'm all for people being against a corrupt system, but the majority of people are dumb and they're in their situation because they put themselves there. People need to take some personal accountability for their lives.

In reply to by Kidbuck

Hikikomori Thu, 08/24/2017 - 19:21 Permalink

This article seems to be taking the number of WORKING Americans living paycheck to paycheck, and applying the figures to ALL American households.  Many American households have no working members.  Retirees, people on welfare, and people on disability generally are not working (unless in the underground economy).

itstippy Thu, 08/24/2017 - 19:27 Permalink

I know several households with good incomes that live paycheck-to-paycheck.  They throw their money away.  They spend a LOT of money in bars, on recreational drugs, eating out whenever they're hungry, buying lots of fashionable clothes, going to the Indian Casino, etc.  Everything they do costs money.  Low income folks that live paycheck-to-paycheck know how to stretch a dollar.  Solidly middle-class income folks living paycheck-to-paycheck are being foolish with their money (unless they have unavoidable expenses like medical issues).  They're playing financial roulette and are gonna lose eventually.  When they do they'll wish they had some of the money they blew on foolishness back.

a Smudge by an… itstippy Fri, 08/25/2017 - 00:04 Permalink

I much appreciate you saying that. Working poor work hard. And they know ever trick in the book about being thrifty. Their greatest strength at this point is they know how to stick together. Pooling resources has got them to this point. But that's no longer enough.

Welcome to the future. We have a permanently disenfranchised working underclass.

Yeah yeah we all heard Bill Gates started Apple in his mom's garage. Keep the anecdotals coming.

In reply to by itstippy

ET (not verified) Thu, 08/24/2017 - 19:27 Permalink

Americans need to save a lot more.I don't mean save bank notes. I mean save gold and silver.

Righttoarmbears Thu, 08/24/2017 - 19:32 Permalink

A poll of 5831 people in a country of 326 million is not an extensive survey, talk about the law of small numbers, and i would also like to make a note this was undertaken by Harris one of the polling companies that managed to get the US election results so completely wrong and Brexit! need i say more