October 10, 2022 – By Jessica Dickler
With prices rising nearly across the board, it’s getting harder to pay for basic necessities, causing some Americans to fall behind.
To that point, 32% of adults have paid a bill late in the past six months, according to a recent report by LendingTree — and 61% of them said it’s because they didn’t have the money on hand to cover the cost.
About 40% said they are less able to afford their bills compared with one year ago, the report found. Most said they fell behind on a utility bill, credit card payment or cable or internet bill.
“Life is getting more expensive by the day, and it’s shrinking Americans’ already tiny financial margin for error down to zero,” said Matt Schulz, LendingTree’s chief credit analyst.
“Unless they’ve been able to increase their income, millions of Americans have had to make sacrifices because of inflation to pay the bills,” he added.
There is no doubt persistent inflation has weighed on consumers, leaving more Americans living paycheck to paycheck.
The consumer price index, which measures the average change in prices for consumer goods and services, rose a higher-than-expected 8.3% in August, driven by increases in food, shelter and medical-care costs.
Although real average hourly earnings also climbed a seasonally adjusted 0.2% for the month, they remained down 2.8% from a year ago, leaving more households stretched thin.
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.
“Americans must create a contingency plan to handle not only increasing interest rates but also high prices on basic necessities,” said Allen Amadin, president and CEO of American Consumer Credit Counseling.
Most financial experts recommend having at least six months’ worth of expenses set aside in an emergency fund. However, Rose Niang, director of financial planning at Edelman Financial Engines, advises clients to save closer to 12 months, considering inflation and a clear slowdown in the economy.