Latest Operation HOPE Research Shows Increasing Concern About the Economy and Impact of Inflation in the First Quarter of 2024

More than 3,500 HOPE Clients Responded to First-Quarter Survey, Providing Key Insights into a Broad Cross Section of American Financial Sentiment

Results also Reveal Consistent Optimistic Outlook for Personal Financial Wellbeing with the Support of Financial Literacy Services & Resources

April 30, 2024 09:00 AM EDT

ATLANTA–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Operation HOPE, a national nonprofit dedicated to helping low- and moderate-income Americans thrive in an ever-changing economy, today announced the first-quarter 2024 results of The HOPE Insider, a comprehensive nationwide client survey, revealing that despite increasing concern about the economy since the end of last year, Operation HOPE clients that receive financial literacy and support services remain optimistic about their personal financial well-being.

This is the second iteration of The HOPE Insider survey, which was first conducted in November of last year. This latest survey, conducted by Operation HOPE’s research team last month, was sent to Operation HOPE’s client base of adults, small business owners, and entrepreneurs who have sought the organization’s financial wellness services. More than 3,500 Operation HOPE clients responded, providing key insights into American financial sentiment relating to housing, debt, small business ownership, work and general economic optimism, as Americans navigate the complex challenges of the current economic climate. The quarterly survey tracks overall trends, with additional questions to reflect timely issues. Its goal is to gather a broad-based understanding of the sentiment of Operation HOPE clients on a regular basis to better support their needs and to serve as an indicator of the real-time financial and economic concerns of the American public.

Among the key survey findings are:

Impact of inflation increasingly continues to be felt – forcing a reliance on savings and credit:

  • Respondents continue to increasingly feel the weight of inflation in the first quarter of 2024 with 77% reporting being “VERY concerned” about the impact of inflation in 2024 and 95% being “concerned overall”
  • The impact of inflation is being felt most through higher prices in groceries/food (42%) and housing (28%)
  • As a result, 43% report not being able to save money or plan for the future, while 23% have had to cut back on spending
  • 14% percent have had to take on additional work
  • 90% of respondents have seen a change in their financial wellbeing due to inflation in at least one of three ways:
    • 61% have had to use their savings to pay expenses
    • 57% have seen their debt increase
    • 45% say their credit score has gone down

Debt still drives uncertainty

  • Respondents are significantly more concerned about the state of the economy now compared to three months ago
  • 77% of respondents are “VERY concerned” about debt levels, higher interest rates, inflation, economic stability, and personal financial strain – this is a ten-point increase from last quarter’s results
    • Respondents are now more concerned about rising debt levels over housing costs, compared to last quarter when the nationwide rise in housing costs were their biggest source of concern

Affordable housing remains elusive

  • Respondents’ biggest source of worry for the year is affordable housing costs, and their largest personal financial burdens remain centered on credit card debt and student loans
  • Housing: Housing costs for this year are their biggest source of worry (32%), and over two-thirds are “VERY concerned” about the current cost of housing in their community (67%) – this is a significant jump from last quarter (56%)
    • 43% considered purchasing a home last year, but found it unaffordable
  • Debt: Credit card debt remains their biggest financial burden (36%), followed by student loans (15%), mortgages (14%) and auto loans (11%)
    • Almost two-thirds of respondents have a household income of $75k or less (63%)

Hope prevails, with guidance

  • Operation HOPE clients remain optimistic that their financial wellbeing will increase over the next year – 79% overall – a reflection of their access to Operation HOPE resources, tools, and coaching
  • Over three-fourths say their business/career situations are looking optimistic for 2024 (84%)
  • 62% of respondents are hopeful that business growth in their community will increase
  • Over half are hopeful that AI/technology will make their lives easier over the next year (58%)

The value of financial wellness coaching and support is also echoed through HOPE’s year-to-date 2024 impact report, showing that through Operation HOPE’s services, clients have experienced an average increase of 41 points in credit scores (of those who saw improvement), a median decrease in debt of $1,892, and a median increase in savings of $1,116.

The HOPE Insider Survey solicited responses from all current and former clients in Operation HOPE’s database via email between March 11 and March 24, 2024. The survey features a diverse representative set with respondents from all adult age ranges, ethnicities, genders, and household incomes across the U.S.

About Operation HOPE, Inc.
Since 1992, Operation HOPE has been moving America from civil rights to “silver rights” with the mission of making free enterprise and capitalism work for the underserved. Through its community uplift model, HOPE Inside, which received the 2016 Innovator of the Year recognition by American Banker magazine, Operation HOPE has served more than 4 million individuals and directed more than $4.2 billion in economic activity into disenfranchised communities—turning check-cashing customers into banking customers, renters into homeowners, small business dreamers into small business owners, minimum wage workers into living wage consumers, and uncertain disaster victims into financially empowered disaster survivors. For more information: Follow the HOPE conversation on X.


Operation HOPE:
Bill Mendel, Mendel Communications
(917) 664-1796

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