47% of Americans would have to Borrow or Sell Something to Cover an Unexpected Expense of $400

Financial security has been elusive for millions of Americans since the Great Recession ended. A new report (pdf) from the Federal Reserve demonstrates one way that this insecurity can manifest itself for people.

As part of its October 2014 survey, the agency asked 50,000 people if they could handle an unexpected “financial disruption” costing them $400. Just over half (53%) said they could “fairly easily handle such an expense” by using money in their bank accounts (checking or savings) or by leaning on a credit card.

But for 47% of respondents, $400 was a tougher problem to handle. Within this group, 14% said they simply couldn’t cover it. Another 10% would have to sell something, 13% would have to borrow money from a friend or relative and 2% would have to resort to a high-interest payday loan.

This finding was buried within the Fed report that otherwise offered a rosier outlook on the state of Americans’ financial status.

“Overall, since the previous survey in 2013, individuals and their families experienced only mild improvements in their overall well-being, but they are increasingly optimistic about the trajectory of their well-being going forward,” the report says.

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Eric Write head editor and chief at The Pluto Daily