42 Percent in U.S. Earning Six Figures Live Paycheck to Paycheck: Survey

A new survey of over 3,000 Americans showed that 61 percent said they are living paycheck to paycheck, including 42 percent of those who said they make over $100,000 per year.

The number of Americans living paycheck to paycheck increased from May to December 2021 across several different income levels and age groups, according to a new survey about inflation and the pandemic's impact on the economy. Of the 61 percent that said they live paycheck to paycheck, just over 39 percent said they were still "comfortable," meaning they're able to pay their bills each month. About 21 percent said they live paycheck to paycheck "with difficulty," struggling to pay their monthly bills.

Since about April of 2021, the growth rate of average hourly earnings of an American worker has been at least one to two percent below the rate of inflation, widening the economic gap as inflation worsens faster than wages can improve, according to CNBC.

Economy Inflation Paycheck to Paycheck Survey
A new survey of over 3,000 Americans showed that over 60 percent said they are living paycheck to paycheck, including 42 percent of those who said they make over $100,000 per year. This photo taken on October 14, 2004, shows U.S. currency in Washington, D.C. Alex Wong/Getty Images

The survey, conducted in mid-December by LendingClub and PYMNTS.com, states that another 39 percent of respondents said they were not currently living paycheck to paycheck.

Prior to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, 34 percent of respondents said they did not live paycheck to paycheck, while 38 percent said they did so comfortably, and 27 percent said they did so with difficulty.

The figure of 61 percent living paycheck to paycheck rose about seven percent from May 2021. However, that is still 4 percent below the December 2020 high when 65 percent of those surveyed said they were living paycheck to paycheck.

Nearly 77 percent of those who made below $50,000 a year said they were living paycheck to paycheck, a jump from 71 percent who said the same in May. The number of people making over $100,000 who said the same increased by four percent from May to December 2021, rising from 38 percent to 42 percent.

The number of "Baby Boomers" and seniors, as well as those from Generation X and Z living paycheck to paycheck all increased from May to December to 54, 60 and 65 percent, respectively, while that rate for Millennials and "Bridge Millennials" (the cusp between Millennials and Gen X) held steady around 70 percent for each.

Across those five generations, 41 percent to 58 percent of those who live paycheck to paycheck and struggle to pay monthly bills said they would not be able to afford an unexpected $400 emergency expense. For those who say they don't have trouble paying their bills, only about 10 to 17 percent across the age groups said they wouldn't be able to afford that expense, and 5 to 20 percent of those who said they do not live paycheck to paycheck said they would not be able to pay the emergency expense.

Update: 2/17/22, 2:15 p.m. EST: This story has been updated with additional context and information from the survey.