*Research Brief Financial Security

How do changing financial circumstances relate to financial well-being? Evidence from a national survey

Key Findings

  • Recent experiences of financial and medical hardships are associated with large reductions in financial well-being.
  • Recent use of credit-based alternative financial services like payday loans is not associated with significant reductions in financial well-being. By contrast, the recent use of transaction-based alternative financial services like check cashers is associated with a significant drop in financial well-being.
  • Going from poor health to good health and gaining access to emergency resources are both associated with large increases in financial well-being. Saving the tax refund is associated with a smaller but still significant increase.
  • These results suggest that, although financial well-being tends to remain relatively stable over a short time period, the exposure to negative (positive) financial experiences can disrupt (improve) the sense of financial well-being, even when accounting for other household characteristics.

Project: Refund to Savings (R2S)


Bufe, S., Sun, S., Roll, S. P., Kondratjeva, O., & Grinstein-Weiss, M. (2019, March). How do Changing Financial Circumstances Relate to Financial Well-Being? Evidence from a National Survey. (SPI Research Brief No. 19-02). St. Louis, MO: Washington Univer¬sity, Social Policy Institute.