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Majority of Americans Living on the Financial Edge, Study Shows

A majority of American families lack financial stability, finds a first-time report released Thursday from the Pew Charitable Trusts.

Some combination of limited or volatile income, high debts and little or no savings puts financial stability at risk for 70 percent of households. For nearly half of Americans, their income barely keeps pace with their expenses — and fewer than half have a cushion of a month’s expenses in savings. With little extra to invest, many have been largely left out of the stock market rebound that has benefited some others. “These macroeconomic indicators we’re pointing to are only beneficial to the people that are actually participating in them,” said Erin Currier, director of the financial security and mobility project at Pew.

Although wages grew by 22 percent for the average worker between 1979 and 1999, they squeaked up just 2 percent between 1999 and 2009, crimping families’ ability to spend and to save. “This has just been such a slow recovery that many families are very much feeling the pinch,” Currier said. “Their general sense of financial security isn’t there.”

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-- Martha C. White, NBC News contributor