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With unemployment numbers rising due to the COVID-19 outbreak and response, Americans feel the effects of the virus hitting their wallets hard and with no clear end in sight. MoneyGeek surveyed 1,257 people across the United States to understand how their lifestyle and individual and family finances have been impacted by the coronavirus.

Report Toplines:
  • Almost half of employed Americans can’t work from home. 47% of employed Americans say they can’t work from home. If trends of stay-at-home orders continue to go into effect across the country, the number of people not working will continue to climb.
  • American financial fragility is evident in the crisis. 54% of employed Americans surveyed say that their wages have or will decrease due to coronavirus. 43% indicate that they have a bill they will be unable to pay due to lost wages.
  • Americans expect coronavirus disruption to last 8 weeks or less. We asked Americans how many weeks they thought the disruptions would last and the median answer was eight weeks.
  • 45% of Americans have delayed purchases due to the coronavirus, another 22% expect to delay a purchase soon. Respondents indicated that the types of purchases they are delaying range from birthday gifts to new homes.
  • Americans plan to clean the house while social distancing. “Watching TV” is the most frequently stated activity to keep busy while social distancing, but “cleaning” shows up as a top plan for many Americans during social distancing.

Background

MoneyGeek is a personal finance technology company. Our mission is to provide education and insight into personal finance matters and provide inclusive resources to help people make healthy and informed decisions. Important to that mission is understanding the pulse and tone of Americans’ finances today. As reports of industry closures, lost jobs, and mass bulk buying hit the news wire on a daily basis, MoneyGeek ran a nationwide survey to better understand the financial risks and lifestyle changes that have resulted from COVID-19.

Though this situation is evolving rapidly, we conducted our survey in the thick of disruptions, with sentiment and awareness at its peak and financial effects being felt in the immediacy. The results yielded from the survey provide an upfront account of the quantitative and qualitative positions that Americans find themselves in and provide a behind-the-curtain look into the lives of those who are currently struggling as a result of COVID-19.

Survey Results

47% of Employed Americans Can’t Work From Home

Our survey indicated that 47% of employed Americans could not work from home today. As coronavirus preventions and disruptions cause more companies to shut down, a large proportion of those unable to work from home could be without a paycheck.

Employment Is on Shaky Ground

As part of our study, we asked respondents about their employment prospects and how they have changed due to COVID-19. In our survey, we found that 54% of Americans who are currently employed have lost or expect to lose wages due to the coronavirus. We also asked Americans to tell us the likelihood that they might lose their job in the next 12 weeks. Over one-third of working Americans feel it’s “very likely” or “completely likely” that they will lose their employment in the next 12 weeks.

In response to their employment uncertainty and lost wages, 43% of employed Americans have a bill that they will not be able to pay because of lost wages.

We also surveyed Americans that had recently lost employment due to coronavirus. Their open-ended responses paint a picture of who’s losing jobs today. This is not an exhaustive list:

  • “I am a hostess at Cracker Barrel and I'm laid off until the store reopens which could take up to six weeks.”
  • “I am a professional dancer, and all the concerts and festivals got cancelled.”
  • “I worked at an ambulatory surgery center. Stopped all elective surgeries.”
  • “I am a reserve teacher for public schools in Minnesota and all schools have closed; therefore, there is no work for me.”
  • “I drive Uber and have had to pause my driver account.”
  • “I had to take leave from work because I live with high risk individuals. Although my company provided leave, it is not paid, and I have not filled out any paperwork. It was a verbal agreement and I was not guaranteed that my job will be available when I return.”
  • “I have worked in the Oral Surgery field for 20 years and last week was laid off due to the virus.”
  • “I work at a museum. I cannot work because nobody will visit and needs to practice social distancing.”
  • “I work at a restaurant — I'm a hostess and because all restaurants are to-go only I have no source of income. Because I've only ever worked part time when I have the time and never made enough money to file for taxes, I get no compensation.”

Americans Expect Coronavirus Disruptions to Last 8 Weeks

The vast majority of Americans expect coronavirus-related disruptions to last between four and 12 weeks, with a median estimate of eight weeks. Over 57% of Americans expect coronavirus-related disruption to last eight weeks or less.

Coronavirus-related disruptions

How Consumer Spending Habits Have Changed In Response to COVID-19

Roughly 45% of Americans have delayed a purchase due to the coronavirus and another 22.3% expect to delay purchases soon.

Open-ended responses from consumers indicate various intensity of purchase delays: While some have delayed new cars and homes, others have put off all purchases except necessities. Some examples:

  • “Birthday gifts for my son — i’m not sure we’ll be able to get/afford them.”
  • “Getting my car fixed.”
  • “I am only buying what is absolutely needed like food, toiletries, and supplies. I am not shopping for any other products at this time.”
  • “I am unable to find paper towels and cannot buy a new cell phone.”
  • “A birthday vacation for my husband is being delayed so we will not make anymore payments on our trip or reservations.”
  • “Tesla, home improvements, a vacation to Disney, and travel to another state.”
  • “I’ve delayed all purchases except for food.”

However, most American’s have spent to prepare and stock up for coronavirus. The median spend for Americans based on their recollection is $150.

Spending preparing for coronavirus

Life at Home Due to Coronavirus

As part of our survey we asked Americans how they will spend their time at home. We also asked parents how they intended to keep their children busy while they were home from school and how they would manage childcare.

Americans Plan to Clean Their Houses, Not Work Out

To our question, “If you answered Yes, you are practicing social distancing, how are you or do you intend to spend your time?” 57% of respondents indicated specific activities they would be engaged in while social-distancing. Common themes that came out of analysis of the free responses:

A surprising amount of free responses about how Americans plan to use their time while social distancing mention the word ‘clean’ (18.4%). When we looked for responses about working out or exercise only 4.5% of responses mentioned it.

  • “At home cleaning up, watching tv, outside when weather permits, sewing, schooling kids”
  • “Cleaning around the home, spending time with my 6 month old, social media, and TV”
  • “All working/schooling from home. Only 1 person (the same person) goes for supplies.”

Parents Are Trying to Keep Kids Busy and Away From Phones

In an unsurprising result, parents are trying to get their kids to do their schoolwork and otherwise stay off the phones and video games:

  • “Trying to keep them busy, making things, coloring, doing workbooks and watching educational programs.”
  • “Not well enough...she's always on the phone. But i'm trying to get her to read for at least an hour a day. besides she's supposed to start remote learning soon.”

Childcare is a Big Concern

  • “Hopefully her daycare doesn't close”
  • “I am able to work from home. It is a struggle getting my work done and supervising homework activities.”
  • “I plan to check with family to see if they can watch my son while im at work”
  • “Actually I'm an au pair living with a host family and I'm taking care of their kids while both work from home.”

Survey Methodology

The Coronavirus Financial Impacts Report includes data from an online survey of 1,247 U.S. adults (18+), fielded March 22 — March 25, 2020, powered by Toluna Analytics. These data were weighted and scaled using Toluna’s Ask the Nation feature which weights responses to be nationally representative.

Appendices

Survey Questionnaire

Demographic Questions:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • State
  • Zip Code
  • Ethnicity
  • Race
  • Household Year Income (Gross)
  • Number of People in Household
  • Number of Children in Household
  • Employment
  • Education Level

Survey Questions:

  1. Are you currently employed? [Yes, Currently Employed. ; No, Not Currently Employed.]
  2. Are you able to do your job from home, at present? [Yes, I am able to work from home. ; No, I cannot work from home.]
  3. Have your wages decreased or do you expect them to decrease due to changes related to preventing or treating COVID-19? [Yes, my wages have decreased or I expect them to. ; No, I do not expect my wages to decrease.]
  4. If Yes, please explain [Free Response]
  5. Do you have an upcoming bill that you will be unable to pay because of lost wages related to COVID-19, whether due to social distancing, self-imposed isolation, government-mandated closures, and/or medical treatment? [Yes, I have a bill that I am unable to pay because of lost wages. ; [No, I am able to pay my bills.]
  6. Please provide a rating of the likelihood of these events: How likely do you think it is that you will lose your employment in the next 12 weeks? [Not at all likely, Slightly likely, Moderately likely, Very likely, Completely likely]
  7. Have you recently lost your job due to the coronavirus (business closures, government closures, lower demand or layoffs)? [Yes, I lost employment due to coronavirus circumstances. ; No, I am not employed due to other circumstances.]
  8. If yes, explain [Free Response]
  9. If you bought supplies to carry you through periods of disruption due to COVID-19, approximately how much did you spend (be it on medicine, toilet paper, bulk groceries, etc.)? [Numeric Response, minimum 0, no maximum]
  10. Are there any recent purchases that you have NOT made or have delayed due to concerns about or changes to your personal finances due to the coronavirus outbreak? [Yes, I have delayed a purchase due to coronavirus. ; Soon, I have not delayed any purchases yet, but I expect to delay purchases in the future. ; I do not plan to delay any purchases due to coronavirus at this time.]
  11. If you answered yes or soon to the last question, what purchases did you skip or delay? [Free Response]
  12. Are you currently practicing social distancing, either self-imposed or due to government closures (schools, restaurants, etc.)? [Yes ; No]
  13. If you answered yes, you are social distancing, how are you or do you intend to spend your time? [Free Response]
  14. If you are a parent, how are you structuring your kids’ days while under quarantine or during social-distancing? [Free Response]
  15. If you are a working parent, how are you or do you plan to handle work duties while your kids are out of school? [Free Response]
  16. Based on what you know today, how many WEEKS do you think COVID-19 disruptions to daily life will last? [Numeric Value, minimum 1, no maximum]

This report was written by:

Doug Milnes is VP of Marketing and Data Analytics at MoneyGeek. Prior to joining MoneyGeek, he led the growth product team at HigherEducation.com and worked in marketing analytics at Clorox. He has also spent more than a decade in corporate finance performing valuations for Duff and Phelps and financial planning and analysis for various companies including OpenTable. He holds a master's degree in Predictive Analytics (Data Science) from Northwestern University and is a CFA charter holder.

Hillary Adler is Director of Content Marketing at MongeyGeek. Prior to joining MoneyGeek, she was Editor-in-Chief and VP of Growth for cannabis startup Green Rush Daily, the Senior Content Manager for Penske Media (Rolling Stone, Variety, SheKnows), and the Senior Editor for DMN (formerly Direct Marketing News).