One out of every four Americans admit they do not pay their bills on time, according to the 2018 Consumer Financial Literacy Survey. In addition, the annual study produced by the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC), found that 8% of Americans have a debt that's currently in collection.
Both numbers are slight increases over last year. The increases were caused by the financial struggles of women, specifically Millennial women (ages 18-34). Nearly 2 in 5 (39%) of women in that age group admit to not paying their bills on time. That, of course, can become a compounding problem as missing payments leads to late fees and other penalties.
"Millennials, and more specifically millennial women, continue to face unique financial challenges. Reinforcing what we are seeing in our survey, recent data from Pew Research and others have shown that young women are outpacing their male counterparts in completing college degree programs, leading to more who are dealing with student loan debt and a delayed start in the workplace," said acting NFCC president and CEO Jeff Faulkner in a press release.
Women are struggling to save
About one-third (35%) of women over the age of 18 have no savings outside of retirement accounts. In the Millennial group, men are more likely (70%) than women (56%) to have at least some savings. In addition, women (21.6%) are more likely to be saving less than last year compared to men (16%) and 10% of women are saving "significantly less."
The news, however, is not all bad for younger generations. Adults between 18-44 are more likely than older generations to report that they are saving more than they did a year ago.
Home ownership is not easy
A hot housing market and rising mortgage rates have generally made home ownership harder to achieve. The NFCC report showed that 38% of adults who have attempted to buy a home in the past year have run into some barriers.
The biggest concern, according to the data, is the pace of rising home prices. Other factors cited across all age groups include not having enough money for a down payment, existing debt, and poor credit history/low credit score.
You need to take action
The first step toward financial health comes with understanding your situation. Examine your expenses, income, and debt then make an honest appraisal. If you have more coming in than going out, it's important to set a budget to first pay off debt, then begin building a six-month emergency fund.
If you don't have the money to pay off debt or to begin to save, you may need help getting your finances under control. That's something that 79% of survey respondents seemed open to as they acknowledged they could "benefit from advice and answers to everyday financial questions from a professional."
The most important step in tackling debt or improving your financial situation is taking action. If you can't handle the situation on your own, reach out to a not-for-profit debt counselor and get help creating a plan. That's not admitting failure. It's simply acknowledging that you want to make changes but need some help in doing so.