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Money Matters Thought Leadership

Middle-Income Americans Believe a Recession is Coming. Here’s What They’re Doing About It.

Professional guidance in 2023 could give you just the boost you’re looking for to overcome the gloomy economic headlines.

As pessimism grows and confidence in their personal finances takes a hit, middle-income Americans are entering the new year bracing for a possible recession — but they’re not just standing idly by.

While Primerica’s most recent quarterly survey found 81% of middle-income households believe the country will be in a recession in 2023, it also found that 62% are either planning or already taking steps to prepare. 

“As middle-income families prepare for a possible recession this year, it’s more vital than ever that they take control of their personal finances by addressing debt, setting a budget and keeping spending in check,” said Glenn J. Williams, CEO of Primerica. 

In fact, that’s exactly what many middle-income Americans are doing — and in many cases have been doing for several months, ever since inflation began to climb and talk of an economic downturn rose in the headlines. 

Amid the ongoing talk of a possible recession, most households are continuing to take proactive steps to reduce the impact to their personal finances. In Primerica’s latest survey, about three-quarters (76%) of households said they are cutting back on non-essential purchases like eating out and entertainment. Nearly half (47%) are putting off regular maintenance on their home or car.

Heading into 2023, the survey also shows families are entering the new year with a renewed sense of purpose to come out of this turbulent economic period with their financial futures intact. They are setting New Year’s resolutions focused on managing debt, creating an emergency fund and sticking to a budget.

Although challenges remain, with 72% of respondents saying their income is falling behind the cost of living, and just 15% believing that either their personal finances or the American economy will be better off a year from now. 

“Three-quarters (74%) of middle-income families report not being able to save for their future, up from 66% a year ago,” said Amy Crews Cutts, PhD, an economic consultant to Primerica. “Inflation over the past year, especially in non-discretionary items like food and gasoline, has hurt the financial security of families as it was impossible to avoid.”

About half (51%) of survey respondents report having tapped their emergency fund in the past year, and about one-third report spending more money in the past year (33%) or dipping into their personal or retirement savings (36%). 

Credit card use also remains high, with more than one-third (36%) reporting using their credit cards more often in the past year, and more than a third (37%) saying their credit card debt has increased in the past three months.

Having access to expert financial guidance to help lead the way through these rocky economic times may be one way to soften the impact of the current financial environment. Only about one-third (29%) of survey respondents said they are very confident they can make sound financial decisions without outside professional help. And anxiety (30%) and not having time (20%) are the biggest challenges people face when it comes to tracking their financial information.

“The economic uncertainty facing families can be stressful,” Williams said. “Creating and sticking with a financial game plan can be hard on your own. Working with a financial professional who can help guide and support you can give you the confidence needed to secure your financial future.”


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