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Report on the Economic Well-Being of U.S. Households

  • Written by Steel Rose
  • Category: Industry News

Despite persistent concerns that people expressed about the national economy, the survey highlights the positive effects of the recovery on the individual financial circumstances of U.S. families. In 2021, perceptions about the national economy declined slightly. Yet self-reported financial well-being increased to the highest rate since the survey began in 2013. The share of prime-age adults not working because they could not find work had returned to pre-pandemic levels. More adults were able to pay all their monthly bills in full than in either 2019 or 2020. Additionally, the share of adults who would cover a $400 emergency expense completely using cash or its equivalent increased, reaching a new high since the survey began in 2013.

Parents with children at home, who had been disproportionally affected by the pandemic in 2020, exhibited notable improvements in their financial well-being in 2021. After declining in 2020, parents' assessments of their financial circumstances rebounded in 2021. This improvement is consistent both with reduced childcare burdens as schools returned to in-person classes, as well as additional financial resources provided to parents such as the enhanced child tax credit (CTC). Most parents also said that their child was doing better academically, socially, and emotionally in 2021 than they were a year earlier.

The report also highlights several new topics added to the survey in 2021, such as disruptions from natural disasters, rental debt, and employer vaccine mandates. These new questions provide additional context on the experiences of U.S. adults in handling unexpected expenses, paying for housing, and navigating ongoing changes in the labor market.

To better understand consumer experiences with emerging products, cryptocurrencies and "Buy Now, Pay Later" (BNPL) products were included on the survey for the first time. While most adults did not use cryptocurrencies in the prior year, cryptocurrency use as an investment was far more common than use for transactions or purchases. However, while transactional use of cryptocurrencies was low, those using cryptocurrencies for purchases rather than as investments frequently lacked traditional bank and credit card accounts.

The report also provides insights into long-standing issues related to individuals' personal financial circumstances, including returns to education, housing situations, and retirement savings. In many cases, the report finds that disparities by education, race and ethnicity, and income persisted in 2021.

Key findings from the survey include the following:

Overall Financial Well-Being

In the fourth quarter of 2021, the share of adults who were doing at least okay financially increased relative to 2020. With these improvements, overall financial well-being reached its highest level since the survey began in 2013.

  • Seventy-eight percent of adults were either doing okay or living comfortably financially, the highest share with this level of financial well-being since the survey began in 2013.
  • Parents experienced particularly large gains in financial well-being over the prior year. In 2021, three-fourths of parents said they were doing at least okay financially, up 8 percentage points from 2020.
  • Forty-eight percent of adults rated their local economy as "good" or "excellent" in 2021. This share was up from 43 percent in 2020 but well below the 63 percent of adults who rated their local economy as "good" or "excellent" in 2019, before the pandemic.


The majority of parents received additional income in 2021 through the monthly CTC. Most higher-income parents primarily saved this money, while most lower-income parents primarily spent it on housing, items for their children, or food.

  • Three in 10 CTC recipients with income less than $50,000 used the largest portion of their credit on housing expenses, just over 2 in 10 spent the largest portion on their child, and 15 percent spent the largest portion on food.
  • Fifteen percent of adults with income less than $50,000 struggled to pay their bills because of varying monthly income. This challenge was even more acute among people who were parents in this income range, of whom 27 percent struggled to pay their bills because of income variability.


Many people switched jobs in 2021, and those who did generally said that their new job was better than their old one. Most employees also said that their employer was taking about the right amount of COVID-19 precautions, although some people not working indicated that concerns about the virus contributed to the choice not to work.

  • Fifteen percent of workers said they were in a different job than 12 months earlier. Just over 6 in 10 people who changed jobs said their new job was better overall, compared with 1 in 10 who said that it was worse.
  • Seventy-seven percent of employees said their employers were taking the right amount of precautions against COVID-19. Those who did not were almost evenly split between thinking their employers were taking too many and too few precautions.
  • Seven percent of all prime-age adults said that they were not working and that concerns about getting COVID-19 contributed at least in part to their decision not to work.
  • Among those working from home, the share of employees who would look for another job if their employer required they work in person was similar to the share who would look after a pay freeze.

Dealing with Unexpected Expenses

The overall share of adults who would cover a small emergency expense using cash or its equivalent increased to the highest level since 2013, when the survey began. Financial preparedness is an important buffer for those who encounter unexpected events, such as medical expenses or disruptions from natural disasters.

  • Sixty-eight percent of adults said they would cover a $400 emergency expense exclusively using cash or its equivalent, up from 50 percent who would pay this way when the survey began in 2013.
  • Twenty percent of adults had major, unexpected medical expenses in the prior 12 months, with the median amount between $1,000 and $1,999.
  • Sixteen percent of adults experienced a financial disruption or hardship from a natural disaster or severe weather event in the prior year.

Banking and Credit

Most adults had a bank account and were able to obtain credit from mainstream sources in 2021, but notable gaps in access to basic financial services still exist among Black and Hispanic adults and those with low income.

  • Six percent of adults did not have a bank account. Black (13 percent) and Hispanic (11 percent) adults were more likely not to have a bank account than adults overall.
  • Eleven percent of adults with a bank account paid an overdraft fee in the previous 12 months, with higher shares of low-income adults having overdrafted over this period.
  • Three percent of adults used cryptocurrency for purchases or money transfers. Among these transactional users of cryptocurrencies, 13 percent did not have a bank account.


Low mortgage rates resulted in a continuation of the wave of refinancing in 2021, although high-income borrowers were primarily the beneficiaries of this opportunity to reduce monthly housing costs. The share of renters who had been behind on their rent in the prior 12 months was higher than before the pandemic, and many still owed back rent at the time of the survey.

  • Nearly one-fourth of all homeowners with a mortgage refinanced their mortgage in 2021. This includes nearly 3 in 10 mortgage holders with an income of at least $100,000, but a lower 16 percent of those with income under $50,000.
  • Seventeen percent of renters were behind on their rent at some point in 2021, including 8 percent who were behind at the time of the survey in late 2021. Among those still behind in late 2021, the total outstanding back rent was between $9.3 billion and $10.9 billion.


At the time of the survey, most parents of primary or secondary school students reported that their children were attending classes completely in person. Most parents also said that their child was doing better academically compared with a year earlier. In contrast to the experience of K-12 students, online education remained prevalent at higher education institutions in the fall of 2021.

  • Ninety-three percent of parents with a child in public or private school said their youngest child who was enrolled in K-12 education was attending classes completely in person, compared with 27 percent attending completely in person in 2020.
  • Fifty-six percent of parents with a child in public or private school said that their child's academic performance improved in 2021, compared with 7 percent who said it declined.
  • Seventy-six percent of higher education students in 2021 said they prefer online or hybrid education, given the situation with the pandemic.

Student Loans

The share of student loan borrowers who were behind on their payments in the fall of 2021 declined relative to before the pandemic. These borrowers also saw increases in their financial well-being compared with prior years.

  • Twelve percent of borrowers were behind on their payments in 2021, a significant decline from the 17 percent who were behind in the fall of 2019.
  • Seventy-three percent of those who went to college and have student loans for their own education were doing at least okay financially in 2021, up from 65 percent before the pandemic.

Retirement and Investments

Among non-retirees, a higher share reported they felt like their retirement savings were on track than in either 2020 or 2019. However, a sizeable share of recent retirees said COVID-related factors affected the timing of their retirement decision.

  • Forty percent of non-retirees thought their retirement saving was on track, up from 36 percent in 2020 and 37 percent in 2019.
  • Twenty-five percent of adults who retired in the prior 12 months, and 15 percent of those who retired one to two years ago, said factors related to COVID-19 contributed to when they retired. To read the full report click here.

Stricter Rules for Collectors May Create 'Loopholes' for Debtors to Dodge Payments, Firms Say

  • Written by KIMBERLY LIM
  • Category: Industry News

Proposed laws to regulate debt collection activities in Singapore could help raise standards across the industry, but some companies worry that there are unintended effects such as debtors using these laws to dodge payments. The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) announced in a statement on Wednesday (June 15) that it is looking to enact laws to regulate debt collection activities. Some proposals included the introduction of licensing and approval regime for debt collection companies and their employees.

This would include a screening process by the police, which will be given the powers to grant or refuse license applications, modify licensing and approval conditions, and suspend or revoke licences or approvals. 

Among other things, a debt collector must also verify that the subject of their activities is the debtor and not "display or use any physically threatening words, behaviour, writing, sign or visible representation".

These plans came after a high volume of police reports have been made against debt collectors in the past few years, hitting a peak of 590 such reports in 2018.

Mr Israel Shankar Ganesh, deputy chief executive officer and head of legal at debt collection firm JMS Rogers Global, told TODAY that the company supports the proposed legislations and believes that it will promote industry standards. Speaking in a phone interview, he said: "We are welcoming the regulations by MHA and we hope that it will be implemented as soon as possible. This is so that the industry can be regulated and there will be repercussions for errant debt collection companies." 

Ms Yvonne Ho, managing director of Singapore Debt Collection Service, said that the proposed laws would regulate debt collection companies that mishandle money entrusted to them, but over-regulating these companies would pose challenges for collectors. 

"We should not ignore the fact that too many restrictions will increase the difficulty of debt recovery jobs. The truth is, there are many people out there defaulting on payments and looking for loopholes to escape what they owe," she added. 

Similarly, Mr Winston Chin, founder of debt collection firm KX Unit, said: "Debtors are going to search for whatever ways they can to get rid of collectors. They may resort to calling the police and reading between the lines (of the law) and finding ways to manipulate the law to their advantage." 

Another concern raised was related to the proposal to introduce a screening process — with similar standards held by many other regulatory regimes. This may make hiring tougher for an industry already plagued by manpower shortage. 

Mr Chin said that most debt collectors leave the industry after three months, usually because of the stress of the job. 

"There are not many people joining this industry and hiring has always been a big problem. I have been here for seven years already and I'm still facing the same problem."

Echoing his sentiments, one company, Resolute Debt Recovery, told TODAY that the screening process by the police will cause the pool of potential candidates to shrink even more, if it were too rigid. 

However, some others believe that the proposed licensing laws have to be spelt out clearly for debt collectors to do their jobs smoothly. 

Resolute Debt Recovery said: "These laws will definitely affect our debt recovery rate. While we do not use intimidation or threats, the authorities need to explain what would be considered threatening... Sometimes, debtors would shout at us first. Then how should we respond?"  To read more click here.

Sending Text Messages to Bank Provided Express Consent for Dialer Use

  • Written by Steel Rose
  • Category: Industry News

Plaintiff American Savings Bank, F.S.B (“ASB”) sent text messages to his mobile phone without the consent required by the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (“TCPA”). Affirming the district court’s summary judgment, the Ninth Circuit held that under Van Patten v. Vertical Fitness Grp., LLC, 847 F.3d 1037 (9th Cir. 2017), messages sent by Plaintiff’s phone to ASB’s “short code” number provided the required prior express consent for ASB’s responsive messages.
The district court granted ASB’s motion for an award of costs under Rule 41(d) for costs, including attorney’s fees, that ASB incurred in defending identical litigation commenced and later voluntarily dismissed by Plaintiff in the District of Connecticut. Joining other circuits, and reversing in part, the court held that Rule 41(d) “costs” do not include attorney’s fees as a matter of right. Accordingly, the district court abused its discretion in including attorney’s fees in its award of costs under Rule 41(d).
The court explained that it did not decide if bad faith is sufficient to allow a party to recover attorney’s fees as “costs” under Rule 41(b), as bad faith was not alleged, much less proven, by ASB in the district court. The court did not address whether attorney’s fees are available under Rule 41(b) if the underlying statute so provides because, here, it was undisputed that the TCPA does not provide for the award of attorney’s fees to the prevailing party.

To read the case click here.

CFPB's Legal Challenge to Unconstitutional Funding in 5th Circuit

  • Written by Angie Rose
  • Category: Industry News

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau again faces an existential threat in the courts — this time over whether the agency’s funding by the Federal Reserve System is constitutional.Five judges on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit signaled their view that the CFPB’s funding mechanism violates the Constitution’s separation of powers because it happens outside of the congressional appropriations process.The opinion is not binding, and the five judges represent less than a third of the 17 active judges on the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. Still, a decision by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in another legal challenge to the CFPB’s finding source is expected in the next six months. To read more, click hereThe judges stated in part: "Here, the CFPB’s structure doubly contravenes the Constitution’s separation of powers. First, “the CFPB’s leadership by a single individual removable only for inefficiency, neglect, or malfeasance violates the separation of powers.” Seila Law, 140 S. Ct. at 2197. Second, the CFPB’s budgetary independence likewise violates the separation of powers. Collins drives the remedial inquiry pertaining to the CFPB Director’s unconstitutional removal protections, but it says nothing about the remedy for the CFPB’s independently unconstitutional funding mechanism. To remedy the separation of powers violation arising from the CFPB’s budgetary independence, I see no other option than dismissing the enforcement action against these appellants. The reason is simple. Just as a government actor cannot exercise power that the actor does not lawfully possess, so, too, a government actor cannot exercise even its lawful authority using money the actor cannot lawfully spend. Indeed, a constitutionally proper appropriation is as much a precondition to every exercise of executive authority by an administrative agency as a constitutionally proper appointment or delegation of authority."

 Mortgage Delinquencies Hit Yet Another Record Low in April with Continued Improvement in Seriously Past-Due Loans

  • Written by Steel Rose
  • Category: Industry News

The national mortgage delinquency rate fell to 2.80% in April, down four basis points from March, hitting a new record low for the second consecutive month. Overall delinquencies are down nearly 40% from last year as the mortgage market continues to recover from pandemic-related impacts. The number of borrowers who are a single payment past due increased 7.9% month-over-month, following typical seasonal patterns. This was offset by strong improvement among borrowers who are three or more payments past due – with volumes falling by 8% month-over-month. Though such serious delinquencies have fallen between 6%-12% in each of the past 14 months, volumes remain more than 55% above pre-pandemic levels. Despite still-elevated serious delinquency levels, foreclosure starts dropped nearly 12% from March and are holding well below pre-pandemic levels – though active foreclosures edged slightly higher. Prepayment activity fell by 19.1% from March and 61.8% from a year ago as interest rates continued their sharp ascent in April. Total U.S. loan delinquency rate (loans 30 or more days past due, but not in foreclosure): 2.80%

Month-over-month change: -1.31%
Year-over-year change: -39.93%

Total U.S. foreclosure pre-sale inventory rate: 0.32%
Month-over-month change: 2.31%
Year-over-year change: 13.48%

Total U.S. foreclosure starts: 21,400        
Month-over-month change: -11.93%
Year-over-year change: 478.38%

Monthly prepayment rate (SMM): 0.99%
Month-over-month change: -19.10%
Year-over-year change: -61.80%

Foreclosure sales as % of 90+: 0.46%
Month-over-month change: 8.58%
Year-over-year change: 228.58%

To read more click here