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Retirement Planning > Saving for Retirement

10 Years After Recession's End, Millions Are Treading Water Financially: Survey

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Ten years after the end of the recession, 23% of Americans who were adults at its onset in December 2007 — some 47 million people — are in worse financial shape than they were before it hit, reported Thursday.

Another one in four of respondents in a survey said they were doing about the same now as they were before the recession started.

“The echoes of the Great Recession remain very present in the financial lives of many Americans, despite the improvement in the broader economy,” Mark Hamrick, senior economic analyst at, said in a statement.

“While some have managed to prosper in the decade since, there are still tens of millions who are struggling to even get back to where they were before the economy took a turn for the worse.”

YouGov conducted an online survey in mid-May among 2,740 U.S. adults, including 2,315 who were 18 or older when the recession began.

The continuing U.S. economic divide was evident in the survey results. Only 51% of respondents reported that their overall financial situation was better than before the recession.

For several groups, things appear to be worse now than they were back then. Twenty-six percent of those who were negatively affected by the recession said they were faring less well now, compared with 14% who said they were not hurt by the downturn.

Twenty-seven percent of women in the survey reported that their overall financial situation was worse now, versus 19% of male respondents. And people with lower income and educational levels were likelier to say they were doing worse now.

Where It Hurts

Despite the mainly positive gains associated with the job market and economic growth, only 46% of Americans who were adults at the time of the recession said their wages or salary were higher than before the recession began.

More than one-third of those who reported that they or their partner had lost a job during the recession said their pay was worse now than before the recession. This included 26% of baby boomers, compared with 16% of millennials who were adults in 2007.

Women, lower earners and those with only a high school diploma, or less, were all likelier than their counterparts to report a decline from their pre-recession income.

Fifty-four percent of all Americans who were adults when the recession began took some sort of financial hit during that time, according to the survey:

  • Lost money on their stock market investments – 71%
  • Home lost value – 46%
  • Depleted emergency savings – 24%
  • Respondent or partner lost a job – 21%
  • Incurred substantial debt – 19%
  • Tapped retirement saving – 19%

Asked about their approaches or mindsets and how they might have changed as direct result of the recession, 29% of all respondents said they had not changed anything, dropping to 19% for who said they were negatively affected by the recession.

Among proactive respondents in the post-recession period, 23% were paying down debt, 23% were saving more for emergencies and 18% for retirement, 14% were actively looking for a better job and 12% now had a more affordable home/mortgage. Ten percent said they were investing less in the stock market.

“While the current economic expansion is on track to set a record for duration, there will be a downturn at some point, we just don’t know when,” Hamrick said. “That’s why it is critically important for Americans to try to save now for emergencies and for retirement while paying down or paying off debt.”


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