Record-high inflation and soaring interest rates are stretching the limits of household balance sheets, leaving many consumers to resort to extreme measures (yes, including raising chickens) that could have long-term implications on their financial health, according to a new study.
The study, “Financial Strategies for Fighting Inflation,” is the latest research from digital personal finance company Achieve.
Based on a representative sample of the U.S. adult population, the study found that 35% of Americans are either planning on or have already had to spend cash from their emergency savings, while 26% have considered or are already in the process of missing a payment or paying less than what's required on their credit cards, loans or other debt.
- When asked to identify their most important financial concern right now, 29% said inflation and 22% said earning more money, supplanting long-standing core issues like job security, affordable childcare, education, and healthcare
- 67% of consumers are either planning to or have already cut back on discretionary household spending and 64% are cutting back on grocery purchases
- While just 8% of respondents said they have raised chickens to produce eggs at home, an additional 18% said they are considering the option or researching how to do it
Gen Z, Millennials at higher risk for falling behind
Taking a closer look at how Americans from different generations are dealing with financial stress, members of Gen Z are more likely to consider more aggressive options to deal with high costs, including those that can come with significant risk. For example, 28% of Gen Z said they are either considering or already taking steps toward filing for bankruptcy. By contrast, just 4% of Baby Boomers are considering or taking steps toward bankruptcy.
Some 39% of Gen Z and 34% of Millennials also said they are considering or have already taken steps toward either missing payments or paying less than what they owe on credit cards, loans and other debt.
This finding echoes recent data from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, which shows that Americans in their 20s and 30s are becoming seriously delinquent on their credit cards at a faster pace than before the pandemic and at a rate that’s approaching levels not seen since the Great Recession.
Soaring food prices are a focal point for financial stress
In addition to cutting back on grocery purchases and discretionary household spending, the study indicates that many Americans are exploring options or already in the process of growing their own fruits and vegetables.
Food costs were up nearly 10% year-over-year in February, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Price Index, part of a trend that’s put strain on food banks and pantries across the country. The study also found that 46% of Gen Zers and 41% of Millennials are considering or already obtaining services from a food pantry.
Recession concerns prompt behavioral changes
Given ongoing concerns about a looming recession, many consumers are planning on taking steps to strengthen their financial position, the study found. When asked what they plan to do to prepare for a possible recession, 55% said they will cut back on spending in the coming months, while 41% plan to save more for emergencies. But not everyone’s worries. Some 20% of respondents said they don’t plan on making any changes to their financial habits.