Financial Health Pulse 2023: Share of Financially Vulnerable Americans Grows to 17% of Population, Climbing to Pre-Pandemic Levels

Largest Pulse data collection finds growing financial health inequities based on race, ethnicity, and age

CHICAGO, Sept. 13, 2023 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- The Financial Health Pulse 2023 U.S. Trends Report, released today by the Financial Health Network, the leading voice on financial health, documents a notable 17% of Americans are now considered Financially Vulnerable, representing levels not seen since before the pandemic. Financially Vulnerable consumers typically struggle to meet expenses, have little to no emergency savings, and burdensome levels of debt. 

This year’s Trend Report marks the most extensive collection of Pulse data to date. New findings document financial health gaps across specific demographics and socioeconomic groups, including geographic regions, for renters relative to homeowners, by overall health, and for entrepreneurs and small business employees. This year’s Pulse Trends Report was released with support from Citi Foundation and Principal Foundation.

“The transient nature of the improvements in financial health observed during the pandemic and the declining financial health of historically marginalized groups is a stark reminder of how crucial it is to maintain a focus on equity when developing products and policies to support financial health,” said Jennifer Tescher, founder and CEO of the Financial Health Network.

Top Level Findings

Financial health has declined across multiple measures, including spending, saving, borrowing, and planning.

For the first time, 2023 data show declines in 5 of the 8 financial health indicators across the four pillars of financial health: Spend, Save, Borrow, and Plan. The most dramatic shift observed in consumer financial health over the past year is related to spending, with less than half of all Americans (49%) reporting disposable income - that is, generally spending less than their income. This represents the lowest number since Financial Health Network first began reporting on financial health in 2018. 

“The trends revealed in this year’s findings reinforce how important an annual financial health pulse-check is to understanding how rapidly changing economic conditions impact families and communities,” said Brandee McHale, Head of Community Investing and Development at Citi and President of the Citi Foundation. “As the number of Financially Vulnerable people in the U.S. increases so does the need for innovative interventions and solutions.”

Differences in financial health based on race and ethnicity are increasing.

Also concerning are the widening differences in financial health based on race and ethnicity. Namely, between 2022 and 2023, the share of Black and Latinx Americans who were Financially Vulnerable increased by 6 and 7 percentage points, respectively, while there was no meaningful change in the share of Financially Vulnerable Asian, White, or Multiracial consumers. These trends mean that financial health gaps between Black and White Americans and between Latinx and White Americans grew over the past year with Black and Latinx Americans experiencing growing challenges around borrowing and financial planning in particular. 

Employers continue to play a role in financial health.

Specifically, this year’s report highlights how a person’s employment experience is related to financial health. Even though employed Americans were less likely to be Financially Vulnerable than those who were unemployed (15% versus 40%, respectively), there was still wide variability in the financial health of workers depending on the size of the business they worked for. Those working at smaller businesses were more frequently Financially Vulnerable than those working for larger businesses. In fact, workers at businesses with fewer than 100 employees were Financially Vulnerable twice as often as those working at businesses with 500 or more employees (18% versus 9%, respectively). 

“The findings around Financial Vulnerability reinforces the multi-faceted nature of financial health,” said Jo Christine Miles, director of Principal Foundation and Principal Community Relations. “To mitigate these factors and remove barriers to financial health, we must collectively work with stakeholders across sectors and institutions to provide Financially Vulnerable people with access to essential needs and opportunities so they can improve their future financial health and security.”

Younger consumers appear disproportionately vulnerable.

The report finds a growing proportion of financially vulnerable consumers among younger Americans, resulting in widening financial health disparities between younger consumers (aged 18 to 35) and older Americans (65 and older) in the past year. Younger Americans experienced specific difficulties around spending, borrowing, and planning.

The Pulse 2023 report also shows how deeply intertwined financial health is with geography, key financial resources, and a person’s health. Specifically:

  • One out of 5 (20%) Americans living in Southern states were Financially Vulnerable, a higher share than in any other region of the United States.
  • Single women were more often Financially Vulnerable than single men or those who were married or partnered.
  • Access to a bank account may be a critical aspect of financial health, with unbanked Americans (47%) four times as likely to be Financially Vulnerable as those with a bank account (11%).
  • A new measure of net worth highlights its importance for financial health, showing that almost half of those in debt (48%) were Financially Vulnerable compared to those with positive net worth (6%).
  • Those with fair or poor health (37%) were Financially Vulnerable six times more often than those with good or excellent health (6%) overall.

“With 43 million Financially Vulnerable people living in the U.S. today, this year’s Trends Report is a sobering reminder that financial health is out of reach for many Americans,” said Kennan Cepa, principal investigator and Senior Manager, Policy and Research at the Financial Health Network. “With increases in Financial Vulnerability disproportionately concentrated among historically disadvantaged groups, there is an urgent need to identify solutions that work towards financial health for, not just some, but all Americans.”


The findings in this report are drawn from data collected from two surveys fielded in the spring of 2022 and the spring of 2023. Now in its sixth year, Financial Health Pulse surveys are fielded using the probability-based Understanding America Study (UAS) online panel, allowing the findings to be generalized to the civilian, noninstitutionalized, adult population of the United States. The 2023 Financial Health Pulse survey was fielded from April 27 through June 11 of 2023 with 8,655 respondents and a cooperation rate of 69.38% (margin of error +/- 1.05%). The data were weighted using U.S. Census Current Population Survey benchmarks and are representative of the non-institutionalized adult population of the United States with regard to gender, race/ethnicity, age, education, and census region. For more background on the report’s methodology visit:


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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