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Financial Pressures Mount Amid Inflation for American Consumers

NFCC and Wells Fargo survey military and civilian households for a look at the state of financial well-being across the nation.

As inflation continues to drain resources from household budgets already stretched from nearly two years of the COVID-19 pandemic, the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC) and Wells Fargo are releasing results of their first combined Consumer Financial Literacy and Preparedness Survey of military and civilian populations. This survey, conducted online by The Harris Poll in November of 2021, highlights several key areas of financial behavior and knowledge. Consumer debt levels, personal savings, and financial worries are some of the highlighted trends in this year’s data.

Survey Indicates Expression of Concern and Worry May Be One of the First Indicators Budgets are Strained.

Similar expressions of worry are also connected to debt management and the ability to meet savings goals.

Headlines and Key Findings

Click here to download the survey data

“Consumer resilience was pushed to the limits during the pandemic and is once again being tested as American families grapple with the pressures of inflation,” said NFCC President and CEO Rebecca Steele. “Despite new challenges, our mission remains the same as we focus our resources on helping worried consumers overcome debt difficulties while ensuring that everyone has access to nonprofit financial counseling.”

The Ability to Manage Debt and Avoid Financial Setbacks is a Primary Reason for Maintaining a Budget


56% of the general population did not have a budget in 2021.


Nearly 1/3 of the general population and even fewer veterans are spending more than in 2020 (30% & 28%).


47% of general population households report having credit card debt.


38% report carrying credit card balances from month-to-month.

Dealing with Financial Emergencies

When needing $2,000 for an emergency expense, it is reassuring that most Americans would turn first toward their savings account. Even so, the second most popular response was to use a credit card as a primary resource for those emergency funds. Active duty military and their spouses are also more likely than the general population or veterans to report other sources to cover a $2,000 emergency, such as borrowing from a retirement account or seeking part-time income.

Preparedness is the key to confidently resolving financial challenges, and when financial capacity is not sufficient for overcoming a setback, it helps to know where to turn for guidance.

NFCC is a trusted resource for helping consumers in debt regain financial control and reach their financial goals.

Download the 2021 Consumer Financial Literacy Survey Resources Below

A young couple receiving credit counseling for bankruptcy

The 2021 Financial Literacy and Preparedness Survey was conducted online within the United States by The Harris Poll on behalf of NFCC and Wells Fargo from November 1 to November 15, 2021 among 2,000 U.S. adults ages 18 and older representative of the U.S. general population and 500 U.S. adults ages 18 and older who are currently active, enlisted members of the U.S. military, excluding reserve members and those in the National Guard (i.e., “servicemembers”), 250 U.S. adults ages 18 and older who are spouses/partners of servicemembers, and 500 U.S. military veterans. For complete survey method, including weighting variables and subgroup sample sizes, please contact Bruce McClary.