The Washington Post

Is the economy working for you? This quiz will tell you.

- Michelle Singletary If you have a personal finance question for Washington Post columnist Michelle Singletary, please call 1-855-ASK-POST (1-855275-7678).

It’s okay if you’re wondering how bad things are.

The drumbeat of economic news has you on edge, and rightly so. Inflation is at a 40-year high, mortgage rates are inching up, credit card debt is getting more expensive, and the release of government data suggests the economy is slowing down. Meanwhile, unemployme­nt is near historic lows. It all can be confusing.

So I’ve teamed up with my colleagues to build this quiz to help you figure out how current economic events could impact your finances. There’s no right or wrong answer. The questions are a way for you to gauge where you stand financiall­y. Start with zero, and then award yourself points according to your responses to the 10 questions below.

At the end of the quiz, we’ll tell you what your final number means. Your score — and our financial advice — could help you prepare for what’s coming if the economy gets worse.

Do you earn enough to cover necessitie­s?

Yes, my monthly salary covers housing, food, utilities, and the cost of commuting. (+3 points)

No, I often have to dip into my savings or use debt to help pay for housing, food, utilities and the cost of commuting. (+0)

The higher cost of necessitie­s — rent, gas and food prices — has led to an increase in homelessne­ss and millions more fearing they’ll soon lose their homes.

Do you have monthly student loan debt that was difficult to pay before the pandemic?

Yes. (+1) No. (+4)

The federal student loan pause is slated to end in August for millions of Americans. The Biden administra­tion is still assessing options for student debt cancellati­on and updates to the federal student loan repayment system.

Do you have emergency savings?

Yes, I have enough savings to pay my basic expenses for at least one month if I lost my job. (+3)

Yes, I have more than three months of expenses saved. (+4)

No, I don’t have any savings. I’m living paycheck to paycheck. (+0)

Many American adults can’t cover a $400 emergency, such as a car repair or a modest medical bill, without borrowing from a friend or family member or using a credit card and paying it off over time.

Are you contributi­ng to a retirement account?

Yes. (+4) No. (+0)

Retirement accounts have significan­tly dropped as recession fears have spooked the stock market. But if you don’t have a retirement account, you are not alone. According to the Federal Reserve, only about half of American households have a retirement account.

Do you have revolving credit card debt?

Yes. (+0) No. (+3)

The average credit card balance is $5,221, according to Bankrate.com. With the Fed set to raise rates again, the cost of credit will become even more expensive. The average credit card interest rate now tops 20 percent.

The share of credit card revolvers, or those who carry over a monthly balance, rose 0.6 percentage points to 40.1 percent nationally in the fourth quarter of 2021, the American Bankers Associatio­n reported in May.

Do you have to pay for gas for the drive to work?

Yes, but my job isn’t far from my home. (+2)

Yes, my daily commute is about 50 miles round trip. (+1) Yes, my daily commute is more than 100 miles round trip. (+0)

I do not have to pay for gas or drive to work. (+3)

The national average for a gallon of gas is now $4.33. Although prices have been coming down on fears of a recession, one of the biggest drivers of inflation has been the escalating fuel cost.

Are you looking to buy a home within six months to a year?

Yes. (+0) No. (+2)

Mortgage rates are the highest in over a decade. As of July 21, the 30-year fixed rate was 5.54 percent, according to Freddie Mac.

Do you have a fixed-rate mortgage?

Yes. (+2)

No. (+0)

Not applicable because I rent. (+2)

Adjustable-rate mortgages (ARMS) could be impacted by Fed rate increases.

Has your rent increased significan­tly?

Yes. (+0)

No. (+3)

Not applicable because I’m a homeowner. (+2)

The median rent across the 50 largest metros jumped

14 percent year-over-year, according to Redfin. Rental housing demand is sky-high.

Do you need to buy a new or used car soon?

Yes. (+0) No. (+2)

A global semiconduc­tor chip shortage is leading to historical­ly high prices for new and used cars.

Now add up your final score. If you think of your financial situation as a traffic light, here’s which category you fall into.

Red

If you scored 13 points or fewer, you were already struggling even before this

latest round of scary news. You are right to be concerned about rising inflation and interest rates. Any variable interest rate debt you have will probably cost more. Budgeting is tough — or will be soon.

But there are some steps you can take to reduce credit card debt. And here is a general guide on how to protect yourself from the economic upheavals that may lie ahead: wapo.st/ recession-proof

Yellow

If you scored at least 14 points but fewer than 18, then caution is in order. You should slow down on your spending. Try to save or save more.

You’re doing okay, but things could get financiall­y tight if the economy doesn’t rebound soon.

Here’s some additional guidance about inflationi­ndexed bonds: wapo.st/i-bonds

Green

If you scored 18 points or more, you are well-positioned to manage the current

economic downturn. People in this category generally have emergency savings and aren’t carrying credit card debt. They generally don’t have mortgages that will go up as interest rates rise, and they’re able to save for retirement.

You may feel like things are bad because your monthly expenses have gone up, and understand­ably that’s a shock. Compared with others though, you’re in relatively good financial shape right now — but it never hurts to be safe.

If you have extra cash to spare, consider putting some of your money in inflation-indexed government savings bonds, currently paying 9.62 percent.

And no matter how you score, check out my seven tips for how to financiall­y prepare for a recession: wapo.st/recessionp­roof

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EMILY WRIGHT/THE WASHINGTON POST
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