Inflation and rising consumer costs have forced Americans to not only cut back on everyday essentials but to reduce their savings and retirement savings, according to this quarter's BMO Real Financial Progress Index.

The index, a quarterly survey conducted by BMO and Ipsos that measures Americans' sentiment around financial confidence, found that 58% of respondents said inflation has adversely affected their personal finances, of which about one in four indicated that they have felt a major impact.

More than a third (36%) of Americans have reduced their savings and 21% have reduced their retirement savings, the index found. Moreover, a quarter of respondents said they will need to delay their retirement due to the inflationary climate.

The survey also showed that the impact of inflation is felt more by younger Americans aged 18 to 34. Sixty percent indicated that they had to reduce contributions to their savings.

“Prices across the board, from cars and gasoline to groceries and other everyday essentials, are rising at the fastest pace since the 1980s. Consumers must think differently about their finances in this inflationary environment,” said Paul Dilda, head of consumer strategy for BMO Harris Bank, in a statement.

Americans are indeed taking stock of their finances. The survey found that 80% have vowed to change their habits to offset the impact of inflation and rising prices. Of those taking action, 42% are changing how they shop for groceries, opting for cheaper items, avoiding brand names and buying only the essentials; 46% are either dining out less or consciously spending less when dining out; 31% are driving less to combat soaring gas prices; 23% are spending less on vacations or canceling them altogether; and 22% are giving up subscriptions to the gym, cable, etc.

Women, the survey found, are more conscientious about making changes. Nearly half (47%) of women versus 36% of men plan to adjust the way they shop for groceries; 49% versus 43% of men said they will cut back on dining out; and 25% of women versus 20% of men plan to cancel subscriptions.

Dilda said consumers should seek advice from a financial expert on ways to successfully manage their finances. “By learning about what do to differently, and what not to change, during a period of inflation, consumers can maintain momentum toward their financial goals,” he said.

The survey found that despite inflation, consumer confidence inched up from the last quarter from 75% to 78%. The report attributed this to more Americans taking control of their personal finances, having a written financial plan, and checking in more often with their financial advisor.

The survey was conducted March 30 to April 25 and included 3,407 U.S. adults.