On May 23, the Federal Reserve Board issued its “Economic Well-Being of U.S. Households in 2021” report, which examines the financial lives of U.S. adults and their families. The report draws from the Board's ninth annual Survey of Household Economics and Decisionmaking (SHED). The survey was conducted in October and November 2021 before the increase in COVID-19 cases from the Omicron variant and other changes to the economic landscape in recent months. The report, fact sheet, downloadable data, data visualizations and a video summarizing the survey's findings are available External Linkhere.

Parents, Hispanic adults show sizeable gains in late fall 2021

The report shows that self-reported financial well-being reached its highest level since SHED began in 2013. In the fourth quarter of 2021, 78% of adults reported either doing OK or living comfortably financially. Financial well-being also increased among all the racial and ethnic groups measured in the survey, with a particularly large increase among Hispanic adults. Parents were one group who reported large gains in financial well-being with three-fourths saying they were doing at least OK financially, up 8% from 2020.

“The SHED results provide valuable insight into Americans’ financial conditions during the late fall of 2021. This important perspective helps the Federal Reserve better understand the economic challenges that existed during that phase of the pandemic recovery,” said Federal Reserve Board Governor Michelle W. Bowman.

Most adults could cover a $400 emergency with cash

The share of adults who reported that they would cover a $400 emergency expense using cash or its equivalent similarly increased to the highest level since the start of the survey—68%—and was up from 50% when the survey began in 2013. For the 32% of adults who reported that they would not cover a $400 emergency expense with cash or its equivalent, most would pay the expense with a credit card and carry a balance. Eleven percent of adults could not pay the expense by any method.

Fewer employees work entirely from home

In addition, the survey presents insight into the experiences of workers through the pandemic. Fifteen percent of workers said they were in a different job than 12 months earlier. Most who changed jobs said the job change was an improvement. Remote work also continued to evolve in 2021. During the week of the survey in late 2021, 22% of employees worked entirely from home, down from 29% in late 2020, but well above the 7% who worked entirely from home before the pandemic. Most employees who worked from home preferred to do so, often citing work-life balance and less time commuting. Those working from home indicated that they would be about as likely to look for a new job if required to return to the office as if their employer instituted a pay freeze.

The report also explores families’ experiences related to banking and credit, income, housing, retirement, student loans and retirement alongside several new topics, such as the use of emerging financial products including cryptocurrencies and “Buy Now, Pay Later” services.

The survey included 11,000 adult respondents.