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‘There seems to be little relief in sight’: More than half of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck, making them more vulnerable to recession

If you find it hard to save anything at the end of the month, you’re not alone. An estimated 150 million American adults are in the same shoes.

More than half (58%) of the U.S. population were effectively living paycheck to paycheck in May with varying degrees of comfort or difficulty, according to the latest Paycheck-to-Paycheck report released by LendingClub Corp., a peer-to-peer lending platform based in San Francisco, Calif.

In other words, after paying for expenses at the end of each month, most people have little left. The percentage is slightly lower than the 61% in April, but 4 percentage points higher than the 54% a year ago. 

Around 39% of U.S. consumers reported that although they live paycheck to paycheck they still felt comfortable paying expenses, up from 33% who said the same last year.

Consumers living paycheck to paycheck were more likely to have experienced financially distressing events at some point over the last three years, including milestone events such as getting married and having kids, as well as negatively life-altering events including job loss or serious illness. 

Close to half of these consumers reported that their salaries only covered basic living expenses, and said that’s a source of their financial distress. About one in five of the group said they have spent more than they earned in the past six months. 

Depleted savings

In general, consumers’ average savings rose from $9,557 in March to $11,274 in May. But for the ones who’ve been struggling to pay their bills, average savings in May was half of what they had saved a year ago ($2,464 vs. $4,065).  

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The inflation rate reached a 40-year-high of 8.6% in May. American consumers are feeling increasingly uneasy about the amount of money they’ve saved, and some have already dipped into their savings to cover rising expenses.  

“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. 

Financial advisers generally recommend people maintain six to nine months of living expenses in an emergency fund.

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