About half of Americans claim that their expenses are equal to or greater than their income, according to a new study from the Center for Financial Services Innovation. That figure increases to 54 percent for those between the ages of 18 to 25.

“Half of America has no financial cushion,” Jennifer Tescher, president and CEO of CFSI, told CNNMoney. “They are living really close to the edge.”

While 25 percent of Americans surveyed said they have too much debt, 96 percent of those people also said they feel stressed.
“We can’t deal with their health problems if we can’t deal with their financial health,” Tescher said. “It’s your co-workers, the receptionist, the guy mowing your lawn, the woman who takes care of your kids.”

With one of every two Americans spending their entire paycheck, the study’s results showcase the impact of a larger structural problem in the U.S. economy, she said.

American’s increasing financial hardship is largely attributed to a “shockingly large” amount of income spent on housing and transportation costs, coupled with stagnant wages, Tescher said.

Reliance on irregular income also contributes to the problem, according to the CFSI study. About 40 percent of those who spend as much or more than their entire paycheck have income that varies daily, weekly or monthly.

American families experience and average five months of income volatility every year, according to “Financial Diaries: How American Families Cope in a World of Uncertainty,” a book written by CFSI staffers Jonathan Morduch and Rachel Schneider.

Income can rise or decline up to 25 percent in those volatile months, according to the book.

“We have a series of structural challenges in this country that require policy solutions,” Tescher said. “We need to remove the stigma of talking about money problems and make it clear that a lot of people are struggling.”

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