On September 26, 2017, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (“CFPB”) released the results of its first national survey regarding the financial well-being of both specific groups of U.S. consumers and the population as a whole. Designed as a component of the CFPB’s strategy for improving consumer financial capability, the National Financial Well-Being Survey was conducted in 2016 by the CFPB using a 10-question survey which, based upon consumer responses, results in a score between 0 to 100, where a higher score indicates greater financial well-being. In addition to measuring financial well-being, the survey collected other information related to: (i) individual characteristics; (ii) household and family characteristics; (iii) income and employment characteristics; (iv) savings and safety nets; (v) financial experiences (e.g., whether a consumer has been denied credit, has used a non-bank short-term credit product, or has been contacted by a debt collector); and (vi) financial behaviors, skills, and attitudes. Specific findings from the report include:
- More than 40 percent of U.S. adults struggle to make ends meet. Forty-three percent of the surveyed consumers reported difficulties in paying bills. In addition, thirty-four percent of surveyed consumers indicated they had experienced a “material hardship” in the past year, including running out of food, not being able to afford medical care, or lacking money for housing.
- Certain demographic and financial characteristics are correlated with financial well-being. Among the consumers surveyed, financial well-being was higher for older adults (aged 65 and older), who had an average score of 61, as compared to younger adults (aged 34 and younger), who had an average score of 51. Moreover, educational attainment, employment status, and income correlated strongly with financial well-being. However, other sociodemographic categories did not demonstrate the same relationship with financial well-being. For instance, there was no demonstrable difference between the financial well-being of men and women. Additionally, while there were some differences between financial well-being for various racial/ethnic groups, those differences were relatively small compared to the differences in subgroups based on educational attainment, employment status, and income.
In addition to releasing the results of the survey, the CFPB also released an interactive online tool to help consumers evaluate their own financial well-being.