Preventing the paycheck-to-paycheck trap

By The Christian Post

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Chuck Bentley

Dear Chuck,

I read an article recently about how many Americans live paycheck to paycheck and question how many really have to live that way. I don’t want to be calloused, but I wonder if they just need to be told to “Grow up!” Doesn’t the Bible tell us not to live that way?

Financially Secure

Dear Financially Secure,

I hear you, but the Bible not only gives us a better way to live, it also tells us not to cast stones!

Unfortunately, I am all too familiar with people caught in the paycheck-to-paycheck trap for multiple reasons. But compassion is so important because many are there due to circumstances beyond their control, including tragic health issues, job loss, unwanted divorces, and basic financial illiteracy.

A 2016 report by the U.S. Federal Reserve stated: “A key consideration regarding household finances and overall economic well-being is the ability to withstand financial disruptions.” A lack of emergency funds is the onset of financial suffering for many. With little or no margin, an unexpected expense or loss of income throws their finances into chaos.

A 2017 report by the U.S. Federal Reserve revealed the following issues that contribute to the paycheck-to-paycheck problem.

Dealing with Unexpected Expenses

  • 4 in 10 adults, if faced with an unexpected expense of $400, have a problem. They would either be unable to cover it or would find it necessary to sell something, borrow from family or friends, or carry a balance on credit cards. (This is an improvement from half of adults in 2013.)
  • Over 1 in 5 adults are unable to pay their current month’s bills in full.
  • More than 1 in 4 adults skipped necessary medical care in 2017 because they could not afford the cost.

Income

  • 3 in 10 adults have family income that varies from month to month.
  • 1 in 10 adults experienced hardship because of monthly changes in income.
  • Nearly 25% of young adults under 30 and 10% of all adults receive some sort of financial support from someone living outside their home.

Financial Literacy

  • On average, people answer fewer than 3 out of 5 basic financial literacy questions correctly.
  • Lower scores fell among those less comfortable managing their retirement savings.

What To Do

There are emotional stories of those living paycheck-to-paycheck, but, like you, I question how many are willing to change their lifestyles, to adjust priorities, and make some sacrifices to protect themselves from financial disaster.

Source:The Christian Post