CFPB survey finds 40% of Americans struggle to pay bills

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Roughly 40% of American adults struggled to make ends meet and pay their bills in 2016, while a third reported experiencing hardship, according to a survey released Tuesday by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

The CFPB released its first "National Financial Well-Being Survey," in which roughly 6,400 consumers responded to 10 questions aimed at measuring how consumers feel about their finances. The agency also released an interactive online tool to help consumers explore ways to take control of their finances.

“These survey results are beginning to measure and examine the financial well-being of consumers,” CFPB Director Richard Cordray said in a press release. “The new tool we are releasing allows consumers to measure their own financial well-being and helps them take better control of their financial futures.”

The CFPB's 112-page report about the survey's findings showed a wide variation in how Americans think about financial well-being.

Savings and financial cushions provided the highest differentiation between consumers. Certain experiences related to debt and credit seemed to be negatively associated with financial well-being, the CFPB said.

On a scale from zero to 100, the average score on the survey was 54. There was a 35-point spread between the top 10% and the bottom 10% of scores. Roughly a third of consumers scored 50 or below, which indicated a high probability of struggling to make ends meet. Another third scored between 51 and 60, which is considered to have a low probability of hardship, while the remaining third scored 61 or higher.

The CFPB conducted the survey of 6,394 consumers between October 27 and December 5, 2016. It used a panel of 55,000 representative households to get respondents proportional to the U.S. population based on age, race, ethnicity and other factors.

The Dodd-Frank Act mandated that the CFPB develop a strategy to improve financial literacy and to implement initiatives to educate consumers to make better informed financial decisions.

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Law and regulation Behavioral finance Financial literacy Distressed Debt Richard Cordray CFPB