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Rent Is Harder to Handle and Inflation Is a Burden, a Fed Financial Survey Finds

American households struggled to cover some day-to-day expenses in 2023, including rent, and many remained glum about inflation even as price increases slowed.

That’s one of several takeaways from a new Federal Reserve report on the financial well-being of American households. The report suggested that American households remained in similar financial shape to 2022 — but its details also provided a split screen view of the U.S. economy.

On the one hand, households feel good about their job and wage growth prospects and are saving for retirement, evidence that the benefits of very low unemployment and rapid hiring are tangible. And about 72 percent of adults reported either doing OK or living comfortably financially, in line with 73 percent the year before.

But that optimistic share is down from 78 percent in 2021, when households had just benefited from repeated pandemic stimulus checks. And signs of financial stress tied to higher prices lingered, and in some cases intensified, just under the report’s surface.

Inflation cooled notably over the course of 2023, falling to 3.4 percent at the end of the year from 6.5 percent coming into the year. Yet 65 percent of adults said that price changes had made their financial situation worse. People with lower income were much more likely to report that strain: Ninety-six percent of people making less than $25,000 said that their situations had been made worse.

Renters also reported increasing challenges in keeping up with their bills. The report showed that 19 percent of renters reported being behind on their rent at some point in the year, up two percentage points from 2022.

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