More Americans are focused on paying their bills on time as the economy steers a recession brought on by the coronavirus pandemic. Nearly half of American households have seen a decline in their income since the outbreak, and with millions out of work or making less, the financial implications are far-reaching.
The survey questions, which asked participants about their financial priorities over the past few months and the extent to which those priorities were met, has been administered about half a dozen times since 2012. Saving more money remains the second most-cited financial priority from previous years, followed by paying down credit card debts or student loans and providing financial assistance to family members of friends.
“While staying current on bills is typically the top answer, we have not seen it to the reported extent and by such a wide margin in quite some time,” Chief Financial Officer at Bankrate Greg McBride told FOX Business. “That was the alarming result. What we are seeing here is a reflection of the fact that that has become more widespread in this recession.”
Financial priorities have not discriminated either.
Across all income brackets, 49% of households have seen a decline in income since the pandemic. And among every demographic classification of income group, gender, race, age, geographic location and political affiliation, staying current on the bills was the most commonly cited priority.
While 52% of households with an annual income of under $50,000 cited this as their top financial priority in recent months, 45% of upper-middle class households and 37% of higher-income households reported the same. Between generations, half of baby boomers ranked staying current on bills as their top concern, followed by millennials, with nearly half of those ages 24 to 39 stressing the importance of staying up-to-date on payments.
Even though no age group or income bracket has been immune to the financial repercussions brought on by the pandemic, the impact has fallen hardest on younger and lower-income workers, according to McBride. Unemployment and income reduction tends to skew younger. As result, millennials continue to take more of the brunt of joblessness and reduced income during the pandemic.
As the economy heads into a deeper economic woes, more Americans are focused on trying to pay the bills every month.
“We are all in for an extended period of financial difficulty for millions of households due to elevated unemployment, extended periods of joblessness and reduced incomes,” McBride said. “Americans have been running down on what were meager savings to begin with. The longer the economic effects of a pandemic stretch on, the more financial hardship households will feel and the more households that will feel.”