Debt: everyone has it, yet so many of us are made to feel guilty about the red in our check books. Financial pundits point to overspending on silly things when you don’t have the money is the reason why so many people are in debt (Remember the avocado toast debacle of last year)? The reality is quite different. Many people are in debt despite trying to live within their means.
America’s caught in a bad finance.
A cross-section of the country suggests most people are struggling to pay their bills than ever before. According to GoBankingRates, roughly 35 percent of respondents have less than $1,000 in savings. Another 34 percent have nothing at all set aside in savings. That means almost 70 percent of the country is ill-prepared for unexpected bills, repairs, or medical emergencies.
Another recent report completed by CareerBuilder reveals 78 percent of those surveyed live paycheck to paycheck. Though these respondents have full-time jobs, their expenses are too many. As a result, they’re unable to create savings as a result.
Without significant savings, it only makes sense the latest data from the Federal Reserve suggests an increasing number of people are applying for credit cards, auto loans, and fast online payday loans as easy alternatives to conventional financial assistance. And they’re using these products to pay for important things, not just avocado toast. Personal loans have seen the most marked increase in usage because they’re often the fastest, least complicated way to secure a cash advance. Many of these lenders offer hassle-free borrowing experiences compared to traditional banking options, many of which aren’t suitable for the underbanked, underemployed, or the working poor.
Is overspending really the culprit?
While clickbait often uses the overpriced lattes as a scapegoat, these small frivolities are rarely the reason why someone is struggling to make ends meet. If you’re living paycheck to paycheck, every dollar of your income goes towards your fixed expenses like rent and groceries. Though there are exceptions to every rule, the vast majority of people aren’t wasting their money on daily Starbucks trips. When they need every cent to pay off the necessities, they can’t afford to spend $5 on a cup of frothy milk — even if a hazelnut mocha coconut milk macchiato sounds delicious.
While irresponsible spending is to blame for some people’s bad finances, greater trends are at play affecting the rest of those relying on financial assistance. The effects of wage stagnation are felt harder at a time when inflation continues to rise unregulated. This is at the same time involuntary part-time work and underemployment force people to work multiple, underpaying jobs.
When facing chronic imbalances within the labor market, most people are stuck hauling around far more debt than they feel comfortable carrying. Unfortunately, as underemployment and wage stagnation make it difficult to cover the necessities in your budget, debt becomes one of the ways those living paycheck to paycheck can make ends meet. Debt isn’t a goal, but it shouldn’t be a source of shame and excessive stress either. Thanks to circumstances outside of your control, debt is a natural part of life in the modern world.