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Recovery? Americans Short On Cash Every Month

Brian O'Connell

NEW YORK (MainStreet) -- A troubling number of U.S. adults just can't seem to get over the financial hump these days -- to the point where more than one-third of Americans are battling to make ends meet each month.

According to fresh data from CashNetUSA, a Chicago online lender, the news gets worse when you dig deeper into the demographic story, with some financial consumers of a certain age faring much worse than others.

CashNet culled the numbers from a study of 1,000 U.S. adults surveyed in February.

In that survey, the firm says the 30- to 39-year-old demographic is feeling the most pressure financially, with 48% of respondents in that age group saying they "struggle to make ends meet."

That compares with 37% of Americans facing similar financial pressures in all other age groups. In addition, parents with children under the ages of 18 -- no surprise here -- also say they are basically living paycheck to paycheck, with 41% of Americans surveyed expressing that sentiment.

"Too many Americans are still experiencing economic pain, and the tax deadline only exacerbates the cash flow squeeze on young families," says Megan Staton, director of marketing at CashNetUSA.com. "The continued weakness in the overall economy hasn't helped consumer spending habits."

It's not like financial consumers aren't savvy about personal financial issues. In many cases, they are, CashNetUSA says. The study shows that Americans have a "solid understanding" of their incomes and expenses.

For example, 45% of survey respondents say they know, pretty much to the penny, how much money they have in their bank account. Another 36% say they knew "exactly" how much money they spend paying bills every month, and another 59% say they have a "rough idea" of how much they're spending. Only 9% have "no idea" what they're shelling out for bills on a monthly basis.

The problem seems to be about income, or the lack of it.

According to Sentier Research, median annual household income declined 1.1% from February 2012, to February 2013 (to $51,404 -- a drop of $590 for the year.)

"The decline in real median annual household income is a worrisome development that reflects, to a large extent, a significant increase in consumer prices of 0.7% during the same time," says Gordon Green, a senior spokesperson at Sentier Research. "Even though we are technically in an economic recovery, the most recent experience suggests that real median annual household income is having difficulty in keeping pace with inflation."

Sentier sees a disturbing trend. Since January 2000, the median household income rate has fallen a whopping 8.1%, and it's fallen 5.9% since 2009, meaning average income has declined more in the recovery years than in the actual recession years.

That means less money to pay bills and an ongoing struggle to make ends meet for an alarming number of U.S. families.

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