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The 8 Biggest Financial Struggles for Americans — and How They’ve Changed

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It’s no secret that millions of Americans are struggling with their finances. But thanks to a recent survey, we now know exactly where they are feeling the most pain.

The U.S. Federal Reserve’s latest annual analysis of U.S. family finances, based on responses from 11,000 people, identified what consumers said were their main financial challenges in the years 2016, 2022 and 2023.

As part of the survey — which has been conducted annually in the fourth quarter of every year since 2013 — respondents wrote their own responses, which were then categorized. Responses could fall into multiple categories.

Here are the biggest financial struggles that Americans report — and how they have changed over the years.

Education

College grad with $100 bills in background.
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Americans who cited this as their main financial challenge in:

  • 2023: 5%
  • 2022: 5%
  • 2016: 6%

The cost of college and other forms of education has been rising for what seems like forever. But there are ways to cut your college expenses — in fact, it’s even possible to get paid to go to school.

For more, read “Can You Get Paid to Go to College?”

Debt

Woman deep in credit card debt
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Americans who cited this as their main financial challenge in:

  • 2023: 6%
  • 2022: 5%
  • 2016: 7%

Falling into debt is all too easy. Unfortunately, it’s often much harder to climb out of the debt hole.

However, with some discipline and determination, it can be done. You just need to put the “8 Surefire Ways To Get Rid of Debt ASAP” into practice.

Medical

Senior patient with doctor
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Americans who cited this as their main financial challenge in:

  • 2023: 6%
  • 2022: 6%
  • 2016: 8%

Over the past few years, we all have faced the worst wave of inflation in decades. But health care costs have been rising rapidly for a much longer period.

If you worry about the spiraling cost of medical care, check out our story “How Can I Lower My Health Care Costs?”

Retirement and savings

Upset seniors with no money
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Americans who cited this as their main financial challenge in:

  • 2023: 9%
  • 2022: 13%
  • 2016: 10%

As costs have risen, many people are discovering that it has become more difficult to find extra cash to save for retirement or another goal.

If you are falling behind in building a nest egg, check out Money Talks News founder Stacy Johnson’s tips in the podcast “5 Fast Ways to Turbocharge Your Retirement Savings.”

Employment

Unemployment
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Americans who cited this as their main financial challenge in:

  • 2023: 9%
  • 2022: 9%
  • 2016: 10%

Right now, the economy is strong and jobs are plentiful. But that doesn’t mean everyone can find work.

Besides, even in the best of times, many of us worry that we are only an unexpected pink slip away from real financial trouble.

If you lose a job, perhaps it’s an opportunity to start a small business of your own. Explore the “11 Cheap Business Ideas You Can Start for Less Than $1,000.”

Housing

Woman worried about inflation
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Americans who cited this as their main financial challenge in:

  • 2023: 12%
  • 2022: 10%
  • 2016: 7%

In 2016, less than 10% of folks cited housing as their main financial challenge. But since then, the runup in home prices and rents has nearly doubled the percentage of folks worried about finding and maintaining affordable shelter.

If you are worried about finding an affordable place to live, maybe you should consider relocating to one of the “10 Housing Markets That Are Giving Buyers More Options.”

Basic living expenses

Shocked senior woman looks at grocery bill
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Americans who cited this as their main financial challenge in:

  • 2023: 21%
  • 2022: 22%
  • 2016: 11%

The percentage of Americans who worry about paying for basic living costs is about double what it was in 2016. That clearly illustrates the corrosive effect that inflation has had on our ability to pay the bills each month.

If your food bill keeps growing, fight back with the “12 Hacks to Cut Your Grocery Bill in Half.”

Inflation

Woman holding an empty wallet
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Americans who cited this as their main financial challenge in:

  • 2023: 35%
  • 2022: 33
  • 2016: 8%

Less than a decade ago, almost no one worried about inflation. Today, the percentage of folks who fear rising costs has more than quadrupled.

You cannot control the inflation that has run rampant through the economy, but you can get a better handle on how it impacts your own pocketbook. For more, check out “How to Control Your Personal Inflation Level.”

None

Relieved businessman or worker relaxed at a laptop not worried about work
OtmarW / Shutterstock.com

Americans who cited this as their main financial challenge in:

  • 2023: 31%
  • 2022: 28%
  • 2016: 53%

While millions of folks struggle with their finances, others hardly worry at all. Almost one-third of respondents have no major financial worries.

However, rising prices appear to have significantly thinned the ranks of folks living on easy street: In 2016, more than half of respondents reported no significant financial challenges.

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