Despite reports of economic recovery, most Americans' household financial security is anything but secure. A report by Pew Charitable Trusts looks at three elements of a household balance sheet—income, expenditures and wealth—over the past several decades, and reveals the "financial tightrope" most families are walking. 70 percent of U.S. households face financial strains in at least one of those three areas, the analysis found, with many facing more than one.
"Our analysis finds that many American families, even those with relatively high incomes, are walking a financial tightrope," stated Erin Currier, director of Pew’s financial security and mobility project. "Many have little if any cushion to absorb an unexpected financial setback. It’s a precarious state…”
55 percent of all households have a month or less of liquid savings, referring to savings or checking accounts, if a financial emergency struck, while a typical household at the bottom has less than two weeks such savings. In the case of a financial emergency, many households would turn to any other assets they might have, either liquidating retirement savings or taking on credit card debt. Yet even doing that, the report states, "the typical household could replace only about four months of lost income."
Wage growth for a typical worker was 22 percent from 1979 - 1999, that growth was just two percent from 1999 to 2009. "Nearly half of households experienced an income gain or drop of more than 25 percent in a given two-year period," it states.