Unrelenting inflation is taking a toll, leaving more Americans living paycheck to paycheck

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Almost everyone has felt the sting of rising prices.

As of August, 60% of Americans were living paycheck to paycheck, according to a recent LendingClub report — a number that hasn’t budged much since inflation hit 40-year highs. A year ago, the number of adults who felt stretched too thin was closer to 55%.

Even high-income earners are feeling the strain, the report found. Of those earning more than six figures, 45% reported living paycheck to paycheck, a jump from the previous year’s 38%. 

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“More consumers living paycheck to paycheck indicates that many are continuing to lose their financial stability,” said Anuj Nayar, LendingClub’s financial health officer.

Inflation is a persistent problem

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 rose a seasonally adjusted 0.2% for the month, they remained down 2.8% from a year ago, which means those paychecks don’t stretch as far as they used to.

A separate report by Bank of America found that 71% of workers feel their pay isn’t keeping up with the cost of living, bringing the number of people who feel financially secure to a five-year low.

Many Americans are dipping into their cash reserves, and nearly half are falling deeper in debt.

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, according to Nayar.

“It is no secret that prices have been increasing for everyday Americans — not only in the goods and services they purchase but also in the interest rates they’re paying to fund their lives,” he said. “This can have detrimental consequences for someone who pays the minimum amount on their credit cards every month.”

For its part, the Federal Reserve hiked its target federal funds rate by 0.75 percentage points for the third time in a row to calm runaway inflation.

The central bank has indicated even more increases are coming until inflation shows clear signs of a pullback.

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Sophie Tremblay

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