ACCC’s Q1 2023 Financial Health Index suggests emergency savings are in poor shape as U.S. households fall behind on credit cards, car payments and personal loans.
Boston, MA – April 24, 2023
American households are experiencing a cash crunch and putting little money away for emergencies – with some consumers reporting they would be unable to access even $100 in a pinch, according to the American Consumer Credit Counseling, Inc (ACCC) Financial Health Index for the first quarter of 2023.
Nearly 40 percent of those surveyed by ACCC in March said they have less than $500 in cash reserves. More than half – 53% – have less than $1,000 in an emergency fund, while almost 19% suggest they’d be hard pressed to come up with even $100 if the need arose today.
The latest analysis of household financial health and readiness by ACCC indicates that a combination of rising debt pressures and the high cost of living is damaging one of the pillars of sound personal finance: having enough cash in savings to ride out a sudden money emergency.
“When consumers start relying more on credit to pay for everyday necessities, it’s a clear sign their cash position has weakened,” said Allen Amadin, President and CEO of American Consumer Credit Counseling. “One of our first and most important pieces of guidance to clients and others we counsel is to budget money each month for emergency savings. These findings from the Q1 Financial Health Index really underscore how challenging that has become.”
Credit card debt is on the rise in 2023 as more consumers are leaning on credit cards to afford necessities like food and rent. According to TransUnion, total credit card debt has increased by 18.5% from 2022 to 2023. The average personal savings rate for most Americans, meanwhile, increased to 4.6% as of February 2023 – up from a near historic low of 2.7% in June 2022, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis.
For more than 60 years, the U.S. personal savings rate averaged a little less than 9%. The COVID-19 lockdowns and related halt to much economic activity during 2020 and 2021 temporarily enabled much more savings – with the average rate of saving peaking near 35% in 2020. Inflation and heavier reliance on credit have driven household savings rates back down.
The ACCC Financial Health Index for Q1 2023 surveyed 441 respondents in March. The vast majority (88 percent) reported household incomes of less than $150,000.
More than 92% of those polled said the cost of necessities such as groceries and fuel has impacted their families’ lifestyle, with 40 percent calling the impact “significant.” Entertainment expenditures have been curtailed the most, according to the ACCC survey, with 45% of respondents reporting cutbacks in that category. But a significant number – 40% – also said their food and transportation spending has been reduced. Meanwhile, 35% of Financial Health Index respondents said they are not confident they can reduce their total debt by at least 10% over the next six months.
“The financial pressures of inflation and the sharp increases in credit card debt are impacting people in some way at almost all economic levels,” said Katie Ross, Executive Vice President of American Consumer Credit Counseling. “We can see that happening from the data we collect from our clients.”
Approximately 30% of those surveyed by ACCC in March said they had fallen behind on either a car payment, credit card or personal loan. About 8 percent had fallen behind on their mortgage or a home equity line of credit (HELOC).
ACCC’s internal data shows the average income of its debt management program (DMP) client rose 23% in the first quarter of 2023 over the same period in 2018. The average amount of debt enrolled in a DMP also increased significantly (29%) from $19,962 in 2018 to $25,701 in 2023.
The level of higher education achieved by DMP clients is also increasing. In Q1 2023, according to ACCC’s client data, the percentage of DMP clients with a four-year degree rose by 36% over the same period in 2018. The number of clients with a master’s degree enrolled in debt management programs increased by 19%.
About American Consumer Credit Counseling, Inc
American Consumer Credit Counseling, Inc (ACCC) is a nonprofit credit counseling 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to empowering consumers to achieve financial management through credit counseling, debt management, bankruptcy counseling, housing counseling, student loan counseling, and financial education concerning debt solutions. To help consumers reach their goal of debt relief, ACCC provides a range of free consumer personal finance resources on a variety of topics including budgeting, credit and debt management, student loan assistance, youth and money, homeownership, identity theft, senior living, and retirement. Consumers can use ACCC’s worksheets, videos, calculators, and blog articles to make the best possible decisions regarding their financial future. ACCC holds an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau and is a member of the National Foundation for Credit Counseling® (NFCC®). For more information or to access free financial education resources, log on to ConsumerCredit.com or visit http://www.consumercredit.com/financial-education.aspx