|poverty next door

Financial worries
in America

Presented by Microsoft News in partnership with Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity

Most Americans feel like they are living paycheck to paycheck and are worried about their ability to fund their retirement. That’s a key finding in our latest poll on financial well-being and poverty in America. The poll also found that women are generally more concerned about saving than men and that the media doesn’t cover poverty related issues enough — and generally portrays those experiencing poverty in a negative light. On the upside: most of us believe we are prepared for a short-term financial crisis and are more optimistic about opportunities for our children. 

We’re taking a deep look at poverty in America this month and wanted to get a sense of how most Americans viewed their financial situation. So we worked with our partners at Civic Science to ask a number of money-focused questions in September and October. The typical sample size for each question was between 1,900 and 2,400.


We started by asking about cash flow and found that most of us are finding it difficult to save anything. What we make, we spend. 62% of us said that we or someone in our family were living from paycheck to paycheck.

This concern is felt more keenly by female respondents than male and by those in the prime working years of 30–64. 

Somewhat predictably, those who make more money on an annual basis have more of a cushion and feel less like they’re living paycheck to paycheck. But the concern does not disappear with greater income. 48% of respondents who said they make more than $100,000 per year said that they felt like they were just covering their costs.

Planning for Retirement and emergencies

In a related money concern, relatively few of us believe we’re saving enough for retirement. Only 31% of the total respondents said that they were. 

Again, female respondents were more concerned about their ability to save than their male counterparts. 

Those 64 and younger were less likely to say that they were saving enough for retirement than those already within the traditional retirement age range (65 and older).

Again, annual income was a factor. Those who make more than $100K per year were much more likely to feel like they were saving enough for retirement. 

When it comes to surviving temporary financial hardships, most of us think we’ll be OK. 62% of respondents said they had enough in savings to cover family costs for a month. 

Opportunities for the next generation

In general, we are more optimistic about our children’s opportunities than our own. Nearly 60% of respondents with children said they believed that their children would have more opportunity than they did. 

Of course, attaining a higher education is a consideration when it comes to financial opportunity in America – and that costs money.  Only 20% of our respondents with children said that they had enough savings to send their kids to college. Most of us say we’d need to borrow. 

Perceptions of poverty in the media and culture

When it comes to telling the story of poverty in America, our respondents found the media lacking and generally negative.  Only 27% said the media covered poverty issues and related policy enough. 

Most also believed that media in the US portrayed people experiencing poverty more negatively than positively.

Finally, tracking with familiar American themes of self-reliance and hard work, a majority of respondents believed that people with less opportunity could turn things around by working harder and applying themselves. 

Continue this series

Presented by Microsoft News in partnership with Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity