Americans struggling to save as inflation soars

Your Money

(NewsNation) — Economic experts often urge people to prepare for emergencies by saving enough money to cover expenses for three to nine months. But the reality is that about two-thirds of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck. As people start to dip into whatever they had stashed away, some big companies are offering incentives to keep up with inflation.

U.S. companies have increased base pay, on average, by 4.8% this year. About one-third of large employers are reportedly considering or planning midyear raises.

Jennifer Lamonaca is one of millions of Americans dipping into their rainy day funds as clouds of a potential recession hang overhead. The Bureau of Economic Analysis defines the “personal savings rate” as the percentage of disposable income that we can put away after taxes and expenses.

The pandemic — and three rounds of stimulus checks — padded pocketbooks at first. The personal savings rate hit a record high of 34% in April of 2020. But this April? It was at its lowest since the 2008 recession, at 5.2%.

“Once the world reopened I was so inclined to do things … I had that money saved and I was, like, cool, great. I have so much money and now I want to hang out with my friends. I want to go to happy hour, I want to go to brunch. I want to go to those places,” Lamonaca said.

From COVID’s onset to the end of 2021, U.S. households built up $2.7 trillion in extra savings, according to Moody’s Analytics. But since the war in Ukraine began, savings have been in steep decline, as inflation drives up the cost of gas, groceries and almost everything else.

Moody’s says families have tapped into about $114 billion so far. It’s only about 4% of what we had squirreled away, but it’s enough to make economists leery.

Last month, 52% of those surveyed in an exclusive NewsNation Decision Desk HQ poll said they were worse off financially than they were a year ago. In May, 59% reported it was very difficult or somewhat difficult to make ends meet.

In a historically competitive job market, some major employers are combating inflation with midyear raises and bonuses, including Exxon Mobil, the T. Rowe Price Group and Microsoft. Lamonaca isn’t expecting such good luck to come her way.

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