Today’s headlines – a soaring stock market, historically low unemployment levels – are obscuring the true nature of people’s financial lives.
Behind these rosy metrics, millions of Americans are struggling. The median wealth of U.S. households has yet to return to pre-recession levels. Loan defaults are inching upward and credit card debt is nearing an all-time high. Total household debt is higher than it was before the financial crisis, baby boomers are nearing retirement with insufficient savings, and Americans of all ages are buried under mounting student loan debt.
We need to look beyond the headlines to metrics that will help us better understand the true state of Americans’ financial lives. At Financial Health Network, we recommend looking at financial health, a composite framework that considers the totality of an individual’s financial life. Unlike abstract figures like GDP, financial health is a nuanced metric that assesses whether Americans are spending, saving, borrowing, and planning in a way that will set them up to be resilient and pursue opportunities over time.