From pandemic disruptions to stimulus checks and soaring inflation to job changes, Americans faced plenty of highs and lows that impacted their personal finances in 2021. The latest release of The State of Personal Finance from Ramsey Solutions takes a look back at 2021 to see how Americans’ attitudes, opinions and behaviors around their money changed as they dealt with these opportunities and challenges.

Executive Summary

  • In Q4, 1 in 4 Americans described their personal finances as “struggling,” up 38% from the start of the year.
  • Eight in 10 Americans said they were hopeful about their financial situation for the year ahead.
  • In Q4, 30% of Americans said they were better off financially than they were this time the year before, compared to only 18% who report being worse off.
  • Among those who said they were better off financially at the end of the year, 31% paid down debt, and 1 in 4 built up emergency savings.
  • Among those who said they were worse off financially at the end of the year, the top reason cited was reduced income (45%), followed by inflation (43%).
  • Personal finances and money were the top issues causing stress, with 1 in 5 saying their money caused them a “significant” amount of stress.
  • From Q2 to Q4, those who noticed higher prices on items they normally buy rose 11%, and those who felt like their money didn’t buy as much rose 8% to a staggering 85%.
  • In Q4, 1 in 4 said inflation has had a “significant impact” on their day-to-day finances.
  • Cost of living is Americans’ top financial challenge (38%), and 1 in 4 said paying off debt was one of their top money challenges.
  • In Q4, only 44% said they were currently investing, down from 58% at the start of 2021.
  • While the total number of people investing trended down throughout the year, among those who continued to invest, cryptocurrency became increasingly popular. By 2021, 1 in 4 investors had purchased cryptocurrency.

For the full study, download the research report below.


Have questions about this study? Email us or visit our newsroom for more information.

About the Study

The State of Personal Finance is a quarterly research study conducted by Ramsey Solutions. The Q4 wave was conducted with 1,003 U.S. adults to gain an understanding of the personal finance behaviors and attitudes of Americans. The nationally representative sample was fielded December 13, 2021, to December 21, 2021, using a third-party research panel.

Wave Field Dates Sample Size
Quarter 1 03.25.21 – 03.30.21 1,023
Quarter 2 06.22.21 – 06.29.21 1,004
Quarter 3 09.29.21 – 10.6.21 1,004
Quarter 4 12.13.21 – 12.21.21 1,003

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