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Fed Finds 40% of Americans Can’t Cover a $400 Emergency Expense

By May 30, 2018No Comments

Four in 10 adults would struggle to cover an unexpected expense of $400, according to the Federal Reserve’s Report on the Economic Well-Being of U.S. Households in 2017, released last week.

The fifth annual survey showed modest improvements in Americans’ economic well-being but also identified numerous soft spots. Among them:

–Three in 10 adults have a family income that varies from month to month, and one in 10 experienced hardship because of monthly changes in income.

–More than one-fifth of adults are not able to pay all of their current month’s bills in full.

–More than one-fourth of adults skipped necessary medical care in 2017 due to being unable to afford the cost.

–Nearly 95 percent of all adults have a bank or credit union account. However, this varies by race and ethnicity. One in 10 blacks and Hispanics lack a bank account, and an additional 3 in 10 have an account but also utilize alternative financial services, such as money orders and check cashing services.

–One-fourth of blacks are not confident that a new credit card application for them would be approved-twice the rate among whites.

–One in five Americans knows personally knows someone who has been addicted to opioids or prescription painkillers.


The complete survey, totaling 56 pages, examines attitudes toward economic well-being, income, employment, dealing with unexpected expenses, banking and credit, and retirement, among other topics. The findings are based on more than 12,000 responses from a representative sample of adults 18 and older.