November 30, 2023
New Report From Clair Analyzes Front-Line Workers’ Financial and Spending Trends
This summer, economists revised their previous statements about a recession in 2023 and pointed toward a “soft landing” instead. However, inflation remains high and front-line workers still have to navigate expensive grocery bills, exorbitant gas prices, the return of student loan payments and the
“childcare cliff” – with an average income of $50,000 or less.
To get a better understanding of the state of front-line workers’ financial wellness ahead of the Q4 holiday season when spending typically rises, we analyzed anonymized data from Clair customers plus results from a proprietary survey of front-line workers across the U.S.
For context, half of Clair customers (50%) are millennials, a third (34%) are Gen Z, and 16% are Gen X or older.
Nearly Half of Front-Line Workers Say Their Income Doesn’t Cover Their Daily Expenses
To understand the difficult financial headwinds that front-line workers face, it’s important to understand that almost half of them (45%) say their income doesn’t cover their daily costs. They are truly living paycheck to paycheck, with an average of under $100 in their checking and savings accounts combined. Per Clair’s survey, nearly a quarter (23%) of American front-line workers feel negatively about their current income, which isn’t surprising given that it often isn’t enough to make ends meet.
This problem has gotten worse recently, with spending per person increasing by 24% year-over-year, likely due to inflation and the fact that pre-pandemic spending on recreational activities like travel and dining out have increased.
Millennials Are Struggling With Higher Expenses Than Other Generations
Millennials have faced more financial setbacks than any other generation in recent history – from entering the workforce during the 2008 Great Recession, to earning 20% less than their parents’ generation, to living through the pandemic’s economic strain as costs of living have increased faster than wages. These struggles continue as millennial Clair customers’ spending increased by 32% on average over the last year, compared to 19% for Gen Z and Gen X.
This could be due to the fact that millennials, who are currently between the ages of 27 and 42, are also at the stage in their lives where their expenses are increasing as they get married, buy cars and/or a house to start a family. Furthermore, nearly a quarter (23%) of U.S. front-line workers feel negatively about their current income.
Gen Z’s Spending – and Eating – Habits Differ from Older Generations
We also took a look at how different generations are spending money, including where they spend the most. Gen Z isn’t just paving their own path on TikTok but also with their eating habits – they splurge more on restaurant dining and fast food than older generations, according to Clair’s customer data. Meanwhile, millennials and Gen X-ers’ top spending locations are more economical grocery stores, with restaurants and convenience stores following behind. Fast food doesn’t rank in the top 3 for either of these older generations and convenience stores aren’t a top spending location for Gen Z.
Gen Z’s food spending theme continued as we dove deeper into the brands that different generations spend on and found that their top brand is Uber Eats food delivery. Meanwhile, Uber Eats ranks #4 on millennials’ list of top brands.
Millennials and Gen X-ers appear to love a good deal because Walmart is the most popular retailer among both generations but for Gen Z, the convenience of Amazon (#2) beats out Walmart’s “rollback” prices (#3). Gen X is extra frugal, with Family Dollar also ranking in their top 5.
There’s also a generational brand divide on the ridesharing front, as millennials and Gen X prefer Uber (#3 for both) while Gen Z spends more on Lyft than Uber. This could be because Lyft is often more affordable than Uber and has built more of a “social good” brand perception, which appears to be particularly important to Gen Z.
Workers Are More Optimistic About Their Own Financial Stability Than The Economy As A Whole
While the “soft landing” predicted by economists may come to fruition, front-line workers across the U.S. are divided overall on the country’s economic future. Clair’s survey found that more than one-third (34%) have negative feelings about the country’s economic outlook for the next year.
However, they’re more optimistic about their own financial futures, with only about 1 in 5 (20%) feeling negatively about their personal economic outlook for the next year.
More Frequent Paychecks Can Help
One way that workers can gain better financial footing – to bridge the gap on their monthly bills, plan their finances better, and balance their spending – is by getting paid more often. Based on Clair’s survey, nearly 2/3 of front-line workers (62%) wish they were paid more frequently than they are now. In fact, 83% want to get paid daily or at least weekly.
The majority of U.S. employers agree, with 61% percent of them saying their employees need access to money more frequently. And their support doesn’t stop there – according to the same survey, more than half of employers (52%) feel a responsibility for helping employees with their financial freedom.
Clair Spending is a demand deposit account established by, and the Clair Debit Card is issued by, Pathward®, N.A., Member FDIC. Mastercard® and the circles design are registered trademarks of Mastercard International Incorporated. Clair Savings Account is established by Pathward, N.A., Member FDIC. Advances provided by Pathward, N.A.
Pathward, N.A. is not associated with this data.
Employers who want to offer more frequent pay and other financial wellness solutions to their employee benefits can visit https://getclair.com/employer to learn more. Pathward, N.A. is not associated with this data.