August 12, 2011
Living paycheck to paycheck? You're not alone
[Flickr photo by Mark Strozier]
To arrive at this disheartening figure, CareerBuilder polled nearly 5,300 U.S. workers this May and June. The same poll in 2010 yielded similar results.
But it's not just workers on the lower end of the economic spectrum struggling to stay afloat. This year, 14 percent of workers earning more than $100,000 annually told CareerBuilder they live paycheck to paycheck. In 2010, that figure was 17 percent. What's more, 17 percent of workers earning six figures say they've decreased the amount they're squirreling away in savings and 401(k) accounts this year, and 9 percent of six-figure earners say they're not saving their pennies for a rainy day or retirement at all.
Of course, the recession isn't solely to blame for Americans' difficulty saving. The same poll conducted in spring of 2007 revealed that four in 10 workers across the salary spectrum were living payday to payday.
Despite being somewhat savings impaired, many Americans say they did take the lessons of our nation's latest economic crisis to heart. A whopping seven in 10 polled say they consider themselves "more fiscally responsible" since the economy tanked and have adjusted their monthly spending and cost of living.
Still, we've hardly become a nation of monks. Behold the daily conveniences that workers say they refuse to give up, no matter what the cost:
- 56 percent would not give up their internet connection
- 46 percent would not to stop driving
- 42 percent would not forsake their mobile phone
- 27 percent say they would not last a week without their cable TV
- 11 percent would not stop eating out at restaurants
What I find most interesting about this study, though, is the discrepancy between the women and men who say they're just scraping by. According to CareerBuilder, 46 percent of female employees polled say they live payday to payday, compared to just 38 percent of men. Likewise, 24 percent of female respondents say they were delinquent on at least one bill payment this past year, compared to just 17 percent of men.
Without more data, it's impossible to speculate whether this savings gender divide is due to discrepancies in wages, spending habits, attitudes about savings, or a combo platter of all three. It would also be interesting to know whether the workers with the most trouble saving inhabit a one-income or two-income household and whether they have dependents. Perhaps CareerBuilder will think to ask those questions when it conducts this survey next year.
How about you? If you were living paycheck to paycheck before or during the recession, are you still? If not, what's changed for you? Your salary? Your household income? Your cost of living? Your saving habits? Do tell.
Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl, a career guide based on her 59 jobs over 40 years in 22 cities.
Kristen Fife is a senior recruiter, career mentor, blogger and resume consultant based in the Seattle area.
Lisa Quast is a certified career coach, mentor, business consultant, former corporate executive and author based in the Seattle area.
Randy Woods writes about job-search tools, networking techniques and other tips to help you land your dream job.
Matt Youngquist is the president of Career Horizons, a career counseling firm.
Natalie Singer is a Seattle writer, editor and small-business owner.
Michelle Goodman is the author of "My So-Called Freelance Life" and "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide."
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