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Insights from the Making Ends Meet Survey

This research brief presents results from the Bureau’s Making Ends Meet Survey, a nationally representative survey of adults with a credit record developed by the CFPB’s Office of Research. The survey results provide a deeper understanding of how often U.S. consumers have difficulty making ends meet, how they cope with these shortfalls, and the subsequent effects of financial difficulty. The Bureau conducted the survey in May 2019, before the efforts to halt the spread of COVID-19 altered many people’s lives. Yet the economic effects of COVID-19 add new urgency to the survey’s goal of understanding how prepared households are for economic hardships such as job loss or medical expenses.

U.S. consumers are frequently exposed to financial shocks which can lead to difficulty paying for bills and expenses. Consumers who experience difficulty often adjust by borrowing, cutting back on other expenses, not paying bills or expenses, or seeking additional income. Many consumers report that they are not well prepared to weather even a brief period of loss of their main income source without altering their lifestyle.

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