Feeling Financially Strapped? Blame These Economic Trends

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empty-walletThe worst of the recession may be behind us, but if you’re still struggling to stretch your budget each month, you’re not alone.

Why? The Wall Street Journal points to five major financial hurdles Americans are facing—and some may surprise you.

For starters, parents with young kids are shelling out a ton of money for babysitting and day care programs. Between 2002 and 2011, the average cost of child care among families with working moms increased from $119 to $143 a week; meanwhile, household income only rose by 0.6% over the same time period.

And once those kids grow up, families’ responsibilities don’t go down: Between 2008 and 2013, public college tuition and fees rose by 27%. What’s more, in 2012, about three-quarters of college graduates were in debt, owing an average of $30,000.

At the same time, rent payments are becoming increasingly unaffordable. One-third of Americans allocate 30% or more of their monthly paycheck to rent—and many renters in certain competitive markets write even fatter checks.

But these increased costs shouldn’t be too much of a problem, since people are earning a lot more money than they were in years past, right? Well, maybe not. It turns out American workers are making only 5% more than they were as far back as 1979.

And even after your paycheck hits your bank account, you’re unlikely to earn much interest on it, which is a particular problem for older Americans living on fixed incomes. According to the Wall Street Journal, the Fed probably won’t increase interest rates until sometime in 2015.

We know you’re waiting for the silver lining—and there is one. While we may not be able to combat rising college costs or decreasing interest rates on our own, there are smaller, more personal changes we can make in order to fatten up our wallets. Learn how to bust bad money habits, from carrying a credit card balance to splurging on restaurant meals.

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