Many Americans are on the financial edge

Markets Reporter
Yahoo Finance
Four in 10 adults would either not be able to cover or would be forced to sell something to cover a $400 unexpected expense.
Four in 10 adults would either not be able to cover or would be forced to sell something to cover a $400 unexpected expense.

On Tuesday, the Federal Reserve released its 2017 report on the economic well-being of U.S. households.

With the economy in its tenth year of expansion following the financial crisis-induced recession, things are getting better — on balance — as you’d expect. When the Fed did this survey in 2013, 13% of respondents said they were struggling to get by; last year, that number fell to 7%.

Additionally, two-thirds of adults with a high school education or less now say they’re doing at least okay financially, up from 53% back in 2013. Among those with a college degree, the percentage of those indicating they are doing at least okay hit 85% in 2017.

For many Americans, however, their financial situation remains dire and is on the edge of falling apart.

Four in 10 adults, according to the Fed, would either not be able to cover or would be forced to sell something to cover a $400 unexpected expense. Additionally, over one-fifth of adults can’t pay all of their current months’ bills, and one-fourth of adults skipped necessary medical care in 2017 because they couldn’t afford it.

Americans of all education levels feel they’re doing better economically now than they were a year ago. (Source: Federal Reserve)
Americans of all education levels feel they’re doing better economically now than they were a year ago. (Source: Federal Reserve)

So while the economy is improving overall as the unemployment rate drops, wages rise, and the stock market rallies, many Americans are still being left behind, unable to afford basic services like medical care or an unexpected car repair.

As the Federal Reserve continues to raise interest rates, more commentators begin to discuss the end of the economic cycle — when will it happen? what will it look like? how deep will the downturn be?

Recent data show Americans are starting to struggle paying off credit card debt. And though the overall financial health of consumers is far better than it was ahead of the financial crisis, stresses are beginning to show.

And as the Fed’s data revealed Tuesday, for many Americans, things are far worse than that.

NOTE: A version of this story was published on May 22.

Myles Udland is a writer at Yahoo Finance. Follow him on Twitter @MylesUdland

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