How Many Americans Live Paycheck to Paycheck: 2021 Statistics

    by Benjamin Aronson
Updated November 18, 2021

Did you know that living paycheck to paycheck is the norm for roughly 54% of Americans?

You’re about to tap into a full list of statistics on Americans, from different areas of the country and at different stages of their lives, who are living paycheck to paycheck.

Unlike other sources out there, all of the stats on this page are current and up-to-date.

In this statistical roundup, you’ll discover exactly how much of the American population lives paycheck to paycheck. Here’s a quick summary of what you’ll read below:

stats related to:

  • Paycheck to Paycheck Statistics (Top Picks)
  • What is the percentage of Americans living paycheck to paycheck?
  • How Many Americans Make Over 100k and Live Paycheck to Paycheck?
  • What is living paycheck to paycheck?
  • How Many Americans Have Emergency Savings?
  • What is the percentage of each generation living paycheck to paycheck?

Paycheck to Paycheck Statistics (Top Picks)

  1. 63% of Americans say that they have been living paycheck to paycheck since the Covid-19 pandemic hit in early 2020 (Highland).
  2. 60% of millennials bringing in over $100,000 claim to be living paycheck to paycheck (Pymnts).
  3. 54% of all Americans, nearly 125 million people, are living paycheck to paycheck, regardless of age and income (Pymnts).
  4. In the first 3 months of 2021, 49% of Americans admitted to saving less than $500, and 40% of those individuals were hit by job loss or a decline in monthly income (Marketwatch).
  5. Almost 40% of U.S consumers with yearly salaries over $100,000 live paycheck to paycheck. That equates to roughly 32 million Americans nationwide (Bls, Pymnts, Lendingclub).
  6. 33% of all U.S consumers, 85 million Americans, earn a yearly salary below $50,000. 72% of them are living paycheck to paycheck throughout the United States (Bls, Pymnts, Lendingclub).

What is the Percentage of Americans Living Paycheck to Paycheck?

Living paycheck to paycheck is a familiar state of mind for more than half of the U.S population. Throughout our analysis of studies, reports, and surveys, the correlation between low income and Americans living paycheck to paycheck is very clear to see.

How Many Americans Live Paycheck to Paycheck Since the Covid-19 Pandemic?

63% of Americans say that they have been living paycheck to paycheck since the Covid-19 pandemic (Highland). In early 2020, almost two-thirds of the population admitted to serious financial struggles.

 63% of Americans say that they have been living paycheck to paycheck since the Covid-19 pandemic

Americans are on stronger financial grounds than just a few months ago. Pandemic-induced job losses created difficult financial situations for many Americans. The government provided much-needed help with the stimulus packages that helped fix a lot of complexities that arose. With the economy restabilizing and many turning to extra income via part-time jobs, many Americans are slowly turning around. Since August 2021, approximately 15% fewer Americans say they are living paycheck to paycheck than those that said so in 2020. Looking at this data, much fewer Americans are living paycheck to paycheck.

How Many Americans Live Paycheck to Paycheck

In a more general outlook, 54% of all Americans are living paycheck to paycheck. That makes up approximately 125 million U.S consumers.

 54% of all Americans are living paycheck to paycheck

Living paycheck to paycheck describes over half of the population. To accurately identify Americans living paycheck to paycheck we separated them into two groups.

  • Living paycheck to paycheck and struggling with bills – Americans that find it very challenging to make monthly expenses.
  • Living paycheck to paycheck – U.S consumers that are able to pay monthly bills yet have not been able to save much.

When we break down the 54% of Americans that are living paycheck to paycheck we see that 21% of them are struggling to pay monthly bills and 33% of them are living paycheck to paycheck with very small savings.

 54% of Americans that are living paycheck to paycheck, 21% of them are struggling to pay monthly bills and 33% of them are living paycheck to paycheck with very small saving.How Many U.S Consumers Live Paycheck to Paycheck Across the United States?

Americans living in the South Central States are the least stableBased on a survey of 7,116 U.S consumers through the 2nd quarter of 2021, Americans living in the South Central States are the least stable when it comes to personal finance with the highest percentage of 58.6% people living paycheck to paycheck. U.S Consumers living in the Mountain States are on the other side of the scale with 49% of individuals living paycheck to paycheck – the lowest percentage in the country making up the states least likely to live paycheck to paycheck.

Living paycheck to paycheck across America:

Mountain States: 49 percent

Midwest States: 51 percent

Pacific States: 53 percent

South Atlantic States: 54 percent

Northeast States: 56 percent

South Central States: 59 percent

Living paycheck to paycheck is most common in the South Central States where approximately 59% of residents live paycheck to paycheck. Americans living in the Northeast States come as the second most likely region to be living paycheck to paycheck at 56% of residents.

How Many Americans Living in Cities Live Paycheck to Paycheck?

Generally speaking, the cost of living is much higher in metropolitan areas than in rural areas, and the high costs of living directly influence the ability to save and the ability to pay bills. So much so that 63% of Americans living in cities are living paycheck to paycheck.

63% of Americans living in cities are living paycheck to paycheckThe data also shows that individuals living in near cities are 24% more likely to owe debt and live paycheck to paycheck than those in rural areas. Due to the fact that the cost of living tends to be higher in cities than in rural areas, living paycheck to paycheck is much more common among U.S consumers living in metropolitan areas.

How Many Americans Make Over 100k and Live Paycheck to Paycheck

Although America has one of the strongest economies and is rated one of the best countries to make personal income, the amount of individuals living paycheck to paycheck is staggering. Almost half of U.S consumers that earn approximately 100K are living paycheck to paycheck.

How Many Americans Earning More Than $100,000 Yearly Live Paycheck to Paycheck?

Using combined data from the U.S labor of statistics and Pymnts, almost 40% of Americans with annual salaries over $100,000 live paycheck to paycheck. This equates to roughly 32 million Americans who earn more than $100,000 annually, yet lack significant savings to cover unexpected bills.

40% of Americans with annual salaries over $100,000 live paycheck to paycheckThis concludes the idea that income indefinitely guarantees financial stability. In fact, Ernst Engel, a German statistician in 1857 noted that as income increases, so do expenses. As we can see by the example above, that couldn’t be more true today.

What Percentage of Americans Make Under $50,000 a Year?

85 million Americans, approximability 33% of U.S consumers earn an annual salary below $50,000.

33% of U.S consumers earn an annual salary below $50,000Out of that 33%, almost 3 out of 4 individuals (72%) are living paycheck to paycheck throughout the United States. It turns out that individuals making an average to low income are 80% more likely to be living paycheck to paycheck than the average high-income earner.

Out of that 33%, almost 3 out of 4 individuals (72%) are living paycheck to paycheck throughout the United StatesThere are high earners living paycheck to paycheck, but high-income consumers are substantially less likely to be in that category when compared to low-income earners.

What Percentage of Americans Make Less than$50,000 a Year Live Paycheck to Paycheck?

According to Statitisca, approximately 38% of American households earn an annual income of 50,000 or below. Out of the U.S consumers that earn $50,000, a massive 72% of those Americans are living on a monthly paycheck to paycheck basis.

38% of American households earn an annual income of 50,000 Statisica’s research was conducted in 2020 and Lendingclub‘s press release was published in June 2021. One can take those stats with a grain of salt, but note that 33% is the most updated statistic. The main takeaway here is that roughly 1/3 of Americans are earning a yearly income of 50,000 or less.

How Many Millennials Earning Over $100,000 Annual Live Paycheck to Paycheck?

According to Pymnts, approximately 60% of millennials earning over $100,000 claim to be living monthly paycheck to paycheck.

38% of American households earn an annual income of 50,000 Out of the millennials making $100,000, 60% are living paycheck to paycheck. That is a very high statistic! Although $100,000 is a large amount of income, many millennials have been coined the term HENRYs. That is short for high earner, not rich yet. This term was first coined in an article that was published back in 2003.

The takeaway here is that there are many high earning groups that are struggling to make ends meet and balance their personal finances.

What is Living Paycheck to Paycheck?

If you’re not exactly sure what it means to live paycheck to paycheck, we are going to cover everything you need to know in the section below.

What does it mean to Live paycheck to paycheck?

Living paycheck to paycheck literally means the income that you generate enters your bank account and leaves that very same month in order to take care of expenses at the end of the month.

In order to understand who is living paycheck to paycheck, you must categorize U.S consumers into three groups:

  • Americans living paycheck to paycheck and struggling with bills – This is a group of individuals that find it very challenging to make their payments each month and lack savings.
  • Americans living paycheck to paycheck – A category of consumers that are able to pay monthly bills and have been able to save a small amount.
  • Americans not living paycheck to paycheck – Consumers that are able to cover their monthly expenses and are not concerned about having enough money to cover their bills.

As noted above, nearly 125 million Americans are living paycheck to paycheck (54%). Take a look at a breakdown:

nearly 125 million Americans are living paycheck to paycheckHow Many Americans Have Savings?

To some Americans, having money tucked away is the difference between making ends meet or being forced to find other resources.

How Many Americans Have Emergency Savings?

According to a recent survey of over 1,000 participants in June of 2021 performed by Bankrate, approximately 70% of those that responded replied to having savings, be it small or large. The specific question asked to the surveyors was “How much readily available cash do you have in emergency savings” and the responses were quite scary when you dig into the data.

1,000 participants in June of 2021participated in a surveyAs you can see from the graph, 25% of respondents noted having no savings and 26% replied having less than three months saved. 19% noted having three-five months of expenses saved away and 25% of respondents acknowledged having six months or more saved away.

Out of the entire survey, 5% of participants simply didn’t know. Looking closely at this information, more than half of Americans have a hard time covering three months of obligations costs with their emergency savings.

How many Americans have no savings?

Based on the survey, 25% admitted having no emergency savings at all (Bankrate). Looking at a national scale, that could potentially be 25% of Americans with no savings.

25% of respondents noted having no savingsAs a rule of thumb, it is recommended by financial planners to have six to nine months of expenses saved away, and as you can see, only 25% of those that responded fit that criteria. Without a modest financial cushion, consumers are not prepared for random financial uncertainties that unfortunately occur. The bottom line here is that Americans seriously lack emergency savings which force them to live paycheck to paycheck.

How Many Americans Have savings and still Live Paycheck to Paycheck?

Having money saved away makes it substantially easier to avoid the rat race grind. Unfortunately, most Americans have relatively low savings. Did you know that 33% of U.S consumers have less than $1,000 in savings?

According to a joint study performed by Pymnts Lendingclub, 33% of U.S consumers have less than $1,000 in savings and 84% of those with savings less than $1,000 are living paycheck to paycheck with half of them struggling to pay their bills.

84% of those with savings less than $1,000 are living paycheck to paycheckAs for Americans with more savings, 52% of Americans that have savings of $1,000 -$15,000 are still living paycheck to paycheck.

This goes to show that having savings makes a serious difference in the lives of those that are financially struggling. On the other hand, you can have a large amount of cash in the bank and still struggle with expenses.

What is the percentage of each generation living paycheck to paycheck?

Financial instability, unfortunately, affects every generation. In the section below we cover which how each generation takes care of their financials and what circumstances led them to their position.

Percentage of each generation living paycheck to paycheck?

Generation Z – Born between 1997-2012

Millennials – Born between 1981-1996

Bridge Millennials – Born between 1977-1981

Generation X – Born between 1965-1976

Baby Boomers and Seniors – 1946-64 and 1928-1945

Generations Baby boomers and seniors are on the opposite side of the spectrum and this is because they are at very different stages of life. While millennials are working, taking on financial responsibility, and supporting their families, baby boomers and seniors are generally retired and not supporting families.

Generation Z: ~58 percent

Millennials: ~68 percent

Bridge Millennials: ~66 percent

Generation X: ~58 percent

Baby Boomers and Seniors: ~ 41 percent

How Many Millenials Nationwide Live Paycheck to Paycheck

Looking at the data from 7,000+ surveys, 68% of millennials living in the U.S live paycheck to paycheck. There are roughly 71 million millennials in the U.S and a staggering 43 million of them are living paycheck to paycheck.

 68% of millennials living in the U.S live paycheck to paycheckMillennials are at the age where they are beginning to make large financial decisions such as buying cars, taking a mortgage, and planning for children. These are some of the very large financial decisions that millennials are making and it makes sense that they are the generation with the highest percentage of “paycheck to paycheck living”.

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