If You're Living Paycheck To Paycheck, You're Not Alone

Photographed by Rachel Cabitt.
There’s no denying it: Payday rocks. Whether you get your hard-earned dollars via check or direct deposit, it genuinely feels great to get that bank-account boost. But a new study found that payday isn’t just a reason to celebrate for the majority of Americans — it’s a sigh of relief.
According to the job site CareerBuilder, 78% of Americans have lived paycheck to paycheck. This number is slightly up from last year, when 75% of Americans said they survived on a tight budget to make ends meet.
Essentially, living paycheck to paycheck means that the majority of your income is devoted to expenses, and you’re saving little to none of what you’re making. It’s a consistent problem for 25% of the people surveyed. They said that they were unable to make ends meet every month of the year.
CareerBuilder also found that women are more likely to live paycheck to paycheck than men. Eighty-one percent of women reported doing so, as compared to 75% of men. Rosemary Haefner, chief human resources officer at CareerBuilder, said younger women are less likely to have a savings cushion.
“Women are more likely to be living paycheck to paycheck than men, and it’s a trait more common for those 34 and under,” Haefner told Refinery29 in a statement. “Living paycheck to paycheck and not being able to save for a medical emergency, career shift, or other life changes can have a toll on financial and personal health — for young people, it’s also delaying working towards specific life goals.”
Not surprisingly, CareerBuilder found that people who make minimum wage struggle financially. Of the 81% of people surveyed who had worked a minimum-wage job, 71% said they lived paycheck to paycheck while working that job. In some cases, a side hustle became a necessity. Fifty-four percent of people had to work a second job to achieve more financial stability.
But living paycheck to paycheck isn’t solely tied to how much money you make. Nearly one in 10 workers who made over $100,000 per year said they often or always save very little money.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate is currently at 4.3%. But just having a job does not secure someone’s financial stability. “Jobs have come back, but we haven’t seen salaries rebound,” CareerBuilder spokesperson Mike Erwin told Paste magazine. “Right now, we are in a time when the cost of living is way outpacing the amount of money that people are getting through raises.”
Some not-so-cheap living expenses have basically become essentials. Of those surveyed, 54% of people said that they wouldn’t give up their internet connection, no matter how desperate their financial situation became. Similarly, 53% said they wouldn’t give up their mobile devices, and 19% said they wouldn’t stop going out to eat.
The reality of living paycheck to paycheck is complicated, but it’s not an issue that affects a single group of people. But according to Haefner, addressing the problem is a step in the right direction. “It’s important to frequently reassess your monthly expenses to see where you can cut back and find cash to pay off debt and add to your saving,” she said. “You should also look for opportunities to boost your earnings, whether that’s making the case for a raise at work or taking on a side hustle.”

More from Work & Money

R29 Original Series