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Fed survey highlights financial stress of Americans

Written by Diane Archer

A 2013 survey by the Federal Reserve shows that a significant portion of the U.S. population exhibit evidence of financial stress.  More than a third of people surveyed (38 percent) reported that they were either “just getting by” or “struggling” to do so. And, one in three said that they were worse off than they were five years ago.

Expanding Social Security would be a big help. About half of respondents are saving some money for retirement. But one in four respondents had done no retirement planning whatsoever, and another 24 percent said they had only given a little thought to retirement planning.  Almost one in five people 55-64 had no retirement savings.  Of respondents who had retired, 74 percent cited Social Security as a source of funds.

Since the Great Recession, many boomers and older adults are struggling to make ends meet, have little savings and see themselves retiring later than originally planned. Almost a quarter (24 percent) of people between 55 and 64 who had not retired said they planned to work as long as possible. Of particular concern, 64 percent of 45-59 year olds and 42 percent of 60+ year olds said they have not set aside emergency funds that would cover their expenses for even three months.

Medical expenses were large and unexpected for one in four respondents.  And, one in three respondents (34 percent) said they had postponed medical care because they could not afford to pay for it.

Social Security lifted 22 million Americans out of poverty in 2012.  Strengthening it and expanding benefits would help strengthen the financial security of Americans.

The Federal Reserve survey was designed to understand the financial well-being of American households and the challenges they face since the Great Recession, as well as the financial risks ahead.  It was completed by 4,134 households.



  • I’m not sure how anyone expects older Americans to save for retirement when they’re unemployed. I lost my job in 2008 when I was 58. I have yet to find another full-time job (I have been working part-time as a school crossing guard since 2011.) I have not touched my retirement savings, but there has been no way to add to them. Don’t underestimate my anger against Wall Street.

  • There are major problems with Social Security Disability payments right now. My disabled son has not received his last 2 months checks.

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