New Research from Financial Health Network Finds Four Out of Five Americans Were Financially Unhealthy at Least Once Over Last Five Years

Novel five-year research uses proprietary Financial Health Pulse data, the nation’s benchmark measurement for finhealth, to provide a unique look at life events, income and other factors that most impact individual financial health over time

CHICAGO, April 19, 2023 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- A new report from the Financial Health Network, the leading voice on financial health, with support from Citi Foundation and Principal Foundation, found that Americans’ well-documented struggle with financial health may be worse than previously thought.

Released today, the new research using The Financial Health Network’s Financial Health Pulse probability-based panel survey is the first to compare individuals’ financial health over a five-year period. The report shows that more than four out of five (84%) Americans were not financially healthy at some point between 2018 and 2022, suggesting that being financially vulnerable or coping is more common for Americans than what annual estimates previously showed.

The study also notes important differences in chronically Financially Unhealthy consumers (47%), those who experience long-term, persistent financial strain, compared to consumers who experience intermittent periods of financial struggles that occur in some years and not others (36% of U.S. adults).

“Financial health has become a standard assessment for financial institutions and workplaces, but this new study highlights the importance of repeatedly measuring financial health over time to gain a deeper understanding of consumer needs as their circumstances change,” said Jennifer Tescher, founder and CEO of the Financial Health Network. “This longer view reveals the critical factors and key life events that determine chronic versus intermittent financial health so both providers and policymakers can better support short term needs while addressing the systemic barriers to financial health.”

While the study indicates that there were few differences based on race/ethnicity, income, gender or disability status among the intermittently Financially Unhealthy, it did identify common risk factors for being chronically Financially Unhealthy as being a woman, a Black or Latinx individual, having a disability or earning a household income less than $100,000.

“Like U.S. Financial Diaries that came before, this longitudinal study illustrates that financial well-being is out of reach for far too many people, and efforts to reach the most impacted segments, especially diverse households, are critical to help boost economic security and mobility for families around the country,” said Brandee McHale, Head of Community Investing and Development at Citi and President of the Citi Foundation.

The study identified specific life events that were more likely to contribute to being chronically Financially Unhealthy. These include: 

  • Never having owned a home
  • Never had a savings or retirement account
  • Experienced unemployment
  • Always had credit card or student loan debt

Further, almost a quarter (23%) of households with incomes greater than $100,000 were chronically financially unhealthy, underscoring that even high earners face financial challenges.

“These findings show that while consumers from all walks of life experience gaps in financial health, there are big demographic differences driving long-term, persistent challenges to financial health,” said Kennan Cepa, Senior Manager of Policy and Research at the Financial Health Network. “These insights can inform how we think about equity in financial health and the best ways to support women and Black and Latinx consumers.”

The study also identified several life events associated with an increased likelihood of experiencing an intermittent period of financial strain. Most predictive was an unexpected employment disruption, which increased the likelihood of a consumer becoming financially unhealthy by 116%. Two other factors - experiencing a decline in physical or mental health and having a major medical expense - were highly predictive of becoming financially unhealthy.

However, some factors also demonstrated a propensity for stronger financial health. For example, results showed that paying off student loan or credit card debt and having household income increase from less than $30,000 to $30,000 or more cut the chances of someone becoming intermittently financially unhealthy by roughly half.

“The data helps isolate those factors and demographics that are most predictive of long-term financial strain so that policy and industry solutions can benefit people experiencing both temporary and persistent gaps in financial health,” says Angela Fontes, Vice President of Policy and Research at Financial Health Network. “These insights have important implications for thinking about where policy-makers, employers, and the financial services industry might be able to best plug in and increase the overall financial health of Americans.”


Data for this research come from five waves of the Financial Health Pulse survey. Data were collected between April and July in each year from 2018 to 2022, using the Understanding America Panel. Understanding America is a probability-based panel of consumers age 18+ designed to be representative of the U.S. population. Of the more than 5,000 respondents who participated in the 2018 survey, 2,818 also participated in the following four waves. Margin of error for this study is +/-1.85 percentage points. More details on this study and its methodology can be found here


About the Financial Health Network

The Financial Health Network is the leading authority on financial health. We are a trusted resource for business leaders, policymakers, and innovators united in a mission to improve the financial health of their customers, employees, and communities. Through research, advisory services, measurement tools, and opportunities for cross-sector collaboration, we advance awareness, understanding, and proven best practices in support of improved financial health for all. For more on the Financial Health Network, go to and follow us on Twitter at @FinHealthNet.


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