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Fed survey finds 4 in 10 Americans in financial stress in 2013

Almost four in 10 Americans were suffering financial stress in September 2013, and more than a third said they were worse off than they were five years earlier, a new Federal Reserve report on U.S. household finances showed Thursday.

One-fourth of respondents reported they were “just getting by” financially, and another 13 percent said they were struggling to do so, the Fed said. Thirty-four percent were worse off financially than in 2008, 34 percent were about the same, and 30 percent were better off, according to the report.

“The survey found that many households were faring well but that sizable fractions of the population were at the same time displaying signs of financial stress,” researchers wrote. “For some, perceived credit availability remains low.”

One-third of those who applied for credit were denied or given less credit than they requested, the survey showed. Twenty-four percent reported having education debt of some kind, with an average unpaid balance of $27,840.

The central bank said its Report on the Economic Well-Being of U.S. Households is a snapshot of financial and economic well-being of U.S. households to help monitor their recovery from the recession and “identify perceived risks to their financial stability.” It aimed to gather household data not readily available from other sources.

The report prepared by the Fed Board’s Division of Consumer and Community Affairs collected data from 4,100 respondents in September and October last year on housing and living arrangements, credit access and behavior, education and student loan debt, savings, retirement and health spending.