Adults ages 30-plus are slowly regaining a sense of financial stability now that inflation has slowed down a bit. However, the lingering effects of the steep inflation of the last few years appear to have affected emergency savings, debt, and retirement savings expectations — the latest semiannual AARP Financial Security Trends Survey finds.
AARP has been surveying the financial security of adults ages 30-plus for the past two years through its Financial Security Trends Survey. The survey is designed to monitor the financial experiences, behaviors, and attitudes of adults ages 30-plus. It examines perceptions of overall financial well-being, debt, emergency savings, retirement savings, expenses, and financial worries. Fielded across all 50 states and the District of Columbia, the survey includes oversamples of Black and African American adults, Hispanic and Latino adults, Asian American adults, and LGBTQ+ adults.
The latest survey, conducted in July 2023 among 7,207 adults, reveals that overall sense of financial security remains on par with this time last year, with 57% rating their financial situation as good or excellent today, compared to 59% in July 2022. Although today’s sense of financial security is still below the January 2022 finding of 61%, there are signs that people are feeling more financially stable than they were in July 2022, when inflation was especially high.
Case in point, just 25% of respondents said that their financial situation today is worse than a year ago, which is lower than the 29% who felt this way in January 2023 and considerably lower than the 33% who expressed this sentiment back in July 2022. In addition, investment declines appear to be less of a problem now than they were at this time last year, during a time of considerable stock market turbulence. Among those who are now worse off than a year ago, fewer attribute their financial struggles to investment declines (17% vs. 27% in January 2023 and 36% in July 2022).
Key metrics reveal an easing of concerns.
The gradual slowing of inflation since the summer of 2022 is reflected in the Financial Security Trend Survey’s most recent findings related to attitudes about prices and household expenses.
These small, but meaningful changes in adults’ day-to-day expenses and associated worries may be the reason that fewer adults have a pessimistic outlook about their financial future and more expect stability. The new July 2023 survey finds that just 10% of adults ages 30-plus believe they will be worse off a year from now, down from 17% who felt this way in July 2022. At the same time, 51% of adults believe their financial situation will be about the same a year from now, up from 46% who felt this way in July 2022.
That said, although inflation is easing, the recent prolonged high inflation has had repercussions on important aspects of finances such as emergency savings, attitudes about retirement savings, and debt.
The cumulative impact of inflation cannot be overlooked.
When prices rise, consumers are more likely to have trouble making ends meet and may find themselves dipping into their savings or saving less than usual. According to the Financial Security Trends Survey, the share of adults who have emergency savings on hand decreased significantly from July 2022 (65%) to July 2023 (61%). While this might not seem like a large change, the presence of emergency savings is a key driver of one’s sense of financial security. The lower share of adults with emergency savings is likely contributing to the lower sense of overall financial security today (57% of adults in our most recent survey felt financially secure, down from 61% when the survey began in January 2022).
Having emergency savings is critical because it can help consumers feel more prepared to handle large, unexpected expenses, which remain the type of expense that causes the most worry (as cited by 60% of adults). Once more consumers are able to build up their emergency savings, we may see an overall sense of financial security grow.
The lingering effects of inflation may have also influenced adults’ expectations of how much they need to save for retirement, with 32% now believing they need more than $1 million saved, up from 28% who felt that way in January 2023 and July 2022. Recent experiences with high inflation as well as the uncertainty about future inflationary trends may be a reason why many of today’s nonretirees are considering engaging in some form of work during retirement. In fact, nearly half (47%) of adults ages 30-plus who are not yet retired associate retirement with a need to work at least part-time for financial reasons.
But perhaps the more direct impact of inflation is seen in the increase in the amount of credit card debt being carried by adults 30-plus. Even though inflation started to cool by mid-2023, a full 30% of adults who carry credit card debt from month to month described their balance as $10K or more in July 2023. In contrast, in January 2022 when consumers had endured less than a year of inflation rates over 5%, just 24% of adults who carried credit card debt indicated that their credit card balance was $10k or more. In addition, the share of adults who say that they borrowed money or took on debt as a result of inflation increased to 18% in July 2023, from 16% in July 2022. Without careful management, this increasing reliance on debt may add to challenges building savings.
However, despite the apparent impact of inflation on savings and debt, roughly nine in ten adults expect their financial situation to either be the same (51%) or better (38%) 12 months from now. Consumers may be feeling slightly more financially stable and even optimistic that they will be able to adjust to the recent increases in their cost of living, even if it may take some time.
Findings are based on a semiannual survey of adults ages 30-plus conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago on behalf of AARP. The July 2023 survey of 7,207 adults was conducted July 5–31, 2023. The January 2023 survey of 7,898 was conducted January 5–February 2, 2023. The July 2022 survey of 4,817 was conducted July 12–August 1, 2022, and the initial survey of 6,162 adults was conducted January 7–February 1, 2022. All four waves include oversamples of Hispanic adults and Black/African American adults. Oversamples of Asian American adults and LGBTQ+ adults were added for the first time in the January 2023 wave.
Data for the general sample were collected using NORC’s AmeriSpeak® Panel as well as its Foresight 50+® Panel; both are probability-based panels designed to be representative of adults in the 50 states and the District of Columbia. To achieve the desired oversamples of Black adults, Hispanic adults, Asian American adults and LGBTQ+ adults, respondents from the Dynata nonprobability online opt-in panel were included. The July 2023 survey included a total of 1,703 Black respondents, 1,754 Hispanic respondents, 1,107 Asian American adults, and 1,311 LGBTQ+ adults. TrueNorth® calibration weighting was used in the oversamples to combine the probability and nonprobability samples and reduce bias in the nonprobability sample.
Brown, S. Kathi. AARP Financial Security Trends Survey, July 2023. Washington, DC: AARP Research, October 2023. https://doi.org/10.26419/res.00525.031