We’re taking on more debt, making less in the pandemic, survey says
While COVID-19 has taken a toll on human lives, a new Bankrate.com survey shows the impact it's also having on our personal finances.
Thirty-six percent of households say their income has decreased since the outbreak of the pandemic, said chief financial analyst Greg McBride.
The survey also found:
• 19% of households have less emergency savings now
• 16% have taken on more debt.
• 58% have not seen any change in their household income.
• 12% saw it increase.
So the financial legacy of the pandemic will be one where people have less savings, more debt and elevated unemployment persist for some time, McBride said.
Those who have seen their income go down were three times as likely to have dipped into their emergency savings. The survey found one in four households whose income has gone down has already added to their debt.
Over time, the longer unemployment persists, the worse those numbers will get, McBride said. Those numbers include people who will exhaust their emergency savings and the more who will continue to add to their debt.
McBride said emergency savings were not in a strong spot coming into the pandemic. Even in January, McBride said, only 41% of households could afford an unplanned $1,000 expense out of their savings. This was when unemployment was at a 50-year low.
The longer that elevated unemployment persists, the more households are going to be piling on debt that they'll have to pay back at a later date, McBride said.
But there was some positive news to come out of the survey, he said: "We are seeing some evidence that people are trying to put some money away, just because of all the uncertainty. About one in five households actually has more savings now than they did prior to the pandemic and it's nearly half of those who have increased incomes."
While every generation was more likely to report a decrease in income than an increase, millennials were more than twice as likely as those who are older to report an income hike. Twenty-four percent of millennials have more savings now, vs. 19% of Gen-Xers (ages 40-55) and 14% of baby boomers (ages 56-74), the survey found.
Millennials, are, however, also more likely to have added to their debt.
McBride said the pandemic hit the northeastern part of the country the hardest — not just the virus itself, but financially. Thirty-six percent of those living in northeastern states have seen their incomes decrease — more than in any other region of the country. More people in the northeast are adding to their debts, too, he said.
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