Publication Date



Social Policy Institute at Washington University in St. Louis


Research Brief (18-03)

Research has increasingly shed light on the precariousness of many households’ financial situations. For example, a large national survey showed that 41 percent of adults lack sufficient liquidity to cover even a modest $400 emergency without taking on debt or selling an asset; a problem that is exacerbated for lower-income households. Compounding this issue is the fact that financial shocks, such as the loss of income or a major car repair, are common; 60 percent of U.S. households reported a shock in the prior year at a median cost of $2,000.

We would expect that these indicators of financial insecurity would translate into feelings of discomfort and anxiety about finances. Yet the research on the degree to which Americans feel financially insecure is mixed. On the one hand, 74 percent of U.S. adults said that they lead relatively comfortable financial lives. On the other hand, financial issues are consistently the largest reported source of stress for U.S. households. These findings point to a complex interaction between objective and subjective measures of financial security and suggest a need for more comprehensive and rigorous methods to assess the financial well-being of U.S. households.

Document Type

Research Brief

Original Citation

Sun, S., Kondratjeva, O., Roll, S. P., Despard, M., & Grinstein-Weiss, M. (2018). Financial well-being in low- and moderate-income households: How does it compare to the general population? (SPI Research Brief No. 18-03). St. Louis, MO: Washington University, Social Policy Institute.


Permanent URL: Refund to Savings (R2S)



Refund to Savings (R2S)