A large swath of American consumers are facing financial hardship as they grapple with elevated living costs, record-high credit card use, and two years of negative real wage growth. This perfect storm could decimate financially fragile households in the next downturn.
As many as 89.1 million American adults (or about 38.5%) were found to experience some form of difficulty in covering expenses between April 26 and May 8, according to Bloomberg, citing new data from the Household Pulse Survey. This is up from 34.4% in 2022 and 26.7% during the same period in 2021.
As wages fail to outpace the cost of living, many consumers have burned through savings and resorted to credit cards. The latest revolving credit data shows consumers appear to be ‘strong,’ but that’s only because they use their plastic cards more than ever to survive.
Consumers have record card debt and ultra-low savings rates and are paying some of the highest borrowing costs in a generation (the average interest rate on cards now exceeds 20%). This debt is becoming insurmountable for some as delinquencies rise.
And what we have now is new debit and credit card data published by the Bank of America Institute that shows not just spending slowdown for lower-income consumers, but also the upper-income cohort is finally starting to crack.