The financial health of many Americans was negatively impacted by the coronavirus crisis, but the poor took even a bigger hit, as more than a third of low-income households lost their jobs, according to the latest Prudential Financial Wellness Census.

In May, 34% of U.S. adults with household incomes under $30,000 were jobless, the research found. In contrast, less than 10% of respondents with a household income of $100,000-plus were unemployed.

And while the median income in 2020 for the general population was $75,000, up from $65,000, the research said it stayed flat for Latino Americans at $55,000 and fell to $45,000 from $55,000 for black Americans, whose unemployment rate nearly tripled from 7% in December 2019 to 18% in May. 

The study, which was conducted in two waves (December and May), compared America's financial health before and during the Covid-19 pandemic. Each wave included more than 3,000 U.S. adults, representing baby boomers, millennials and Generation X.

More than half (51%) of Americans indicated that the pandemic disrupted their financial health. Twenty-six percent said they either were furloughed or had reduced compensation or work hours. And nearly one in five (17%) saw their household income fall by half or more in the months following the crisis. That included 32% small business owners, 31% gig workers, 24% retail industry employees and 23% caregivers.  

Of the more than half who said the pandemic impeded their finances, 14% lost their jobs. Of those who had a job loss or income disruption, 17% also lost employer contributions to a retirement plan, 14% were left without health insurance, and 10% lost group life insurance.

The research also noted that the number of respondents who qualified as financially “confident” or as having high income, investments and a positive outlook, dropped to 36%, down from 40% in 2019, while those who qualified as  being “discouraged” or as having a low objective financial health and pessimistic outlook, increased to 33% from 31% only a few months prior.

Nearly half of respondents (48%) said they are worried about their financial future in May, up from 38% at the end of 2019, the report said. Those with incomes under $30,000 were significantly more worried, with 53% being worried about their current finances and 59% about their financial future. In contrast, 33% of respondents in the $100,000 income range indicated that they were worried about their finances and 40% said they were worried about the future.

Gen Xers (53%) and millennials (52%) were far more worried about the financial future than boomers (37%).

Respondents, overall, most frequently pointed to retirement savings opportunities, paid time off, and comprehensive health-care and prescription medicine coverage as the workplace benefits and attributes they value most. However, lower-income respondents favored getting more vacation time and paid leave, while higher-income respondents placed greater emphasis on retirement savings.

Respondents said the changes they most want to see are affordable healthcare (43%), more flexible work options (35%), better government programs to support small businesses (32%), and universal health care (32%).

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