New LegalShield Data Reveals Highest Consumer Financial Stress Level in 3 Years
Consumer Stress Legal Index Reaches New Highs
- LegalShield’s Consumer Stress Legal Index (CSLI) rose for the 10th straight month in December, hitting its highest level since November 2020.
- Leading indicator of the Consumer Confidence Index indicates mounting economic pressures on everyday Americans for months to come.
Increased Stress Driven by Consumer Finance Issues
- Bankruptcies, foreclosures and auto repossessions prompt calls for legal help amidst mounting financial strains.
- Payday loan assistance sought through end of 2023 signaling potential credit reckoning.
LegalShield released new data today suggesting rising financial instability for consumers nationwide. The company’s December Consumer Stress Legal Index (CSLI) increased for the tenth straight month to 66.7, reaching its highest level since November 2020, and points to a decline in consumer confidence in the coming months.
These findings are in contrast to a string of recent positive economic indicators including robust GDP growth, easing of inflation and a strong jobs report, as well as record consumer spending during the 2023 holiday season. The Mastercard Spending Pulse indicates a 3.1% year-over-year jump in holiday spending from November 1 to December 26.
LegalShield’s CSLI (formerly the Economic Stress Index) was launched in 2018 and is based on a dataset of more than 35 million consumer requests for legal assistance since 2002. The index examines findings from approximately 150,000 calls received monthly from consumers seeking legal help in more than 90 areas of law, including key consumer issues.
Matt Layton, LegalShield’s SVP of Consumer Analytics, said the latest data reflects growing concerns among everyday Americans facing financial strains.
“People don’t call attorneys unless they are genuinely worried about something,” Layton said. “The strength of our data lies in the source – unprompted calls from LegalShield members seeking help from an attorney. They already identified the value of affordable legal assistance to help them solve challenges. This is not a survey with leading questions or prompts about the economy; these are real concerns from real people who sought out affordable legal advice to take action.”
Since its inception, the CSLI has been a leading indicator of the Conference Board’s Consumer Confidence Index. Its rise in 2023 follows the Federal Reserve interest rate hikes that started in March 2022. Key drivers of the Index’s rise are requests for legal help with foreclosures and bankruptcies.
LegalShield data indicates Millennials and Gen Xers are significant contributors to the climbing index. These generations face acute budget pressures seen in rising calls about payday loans, in addition to a sharp spike in auto repossessions, billing disputes and other money issues.
“Our Consumer Stress Legal Index has historically preceded financial challenges by 60-90 days,” said Layton. “The CSLI data is showing that consumers are stretched financially thin – from holiday shopping to making a car payment. The rise in consumer stress in contrast to increased spending may point to an even sharper rise in household debt in the coming months.”
In the latest federal report, U.S. household debt rose 1.3% in the third quarter of 2023 to a record $17.29 trillion, led by mortgage, credit card and student loans as well as auto loans, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
“Despite rosy macroeconomic signs, our data reveals a concerning rise in consumer debt struggles – from bankruptcies to car repossessions,” said LegalShield CEO Warren Schlichting. “With rising inquiries about foreclosures and missed bill payments, we’re monitoring this retail-level financial stress. People may not be able to cover costs despite positive jobs reports and interest rates.”
About the LegalShield Consumer Stress Legal Index:
As part of LegalShield’s mission to ensure every person has equal access to justice, we mine our data for insights policymakers can use to make a real, positive impact in their decision making. Released monthly, the LegalShield Consumer Stress Legal Index is comprised of three sub-indices which reflect the demand for various legal services. LegalShield’s dataset includes more than 35 million consumer requests for legal assistance since 2002, averaging approximately 150,000 calls received monthly. The CSLI uncovers the daily challenges people are facing and provides actionable intelligence to help policymakers and industry leaders bridge those gaps.
For more than 50 years, LegalShield has provided everyday Americans with easy and affordable access to legal advice, counsel, protection, and representation. Serving millions, LegalShield is one of the world’s largest platforms for legal, identity, and reputation management services protecting individuals and businesses across North America. Founded in 1972, LegalShield, and its privacy management product, IDShield, has provided individuals, families, businesses, and employers with tools and services needed to affordably live a just and secure life. Through technology and innovation, LegalShield is disrupting the traditional legal system and transforming how and where people receive legal guidance and services, with access to thousands of qualified, trusted attorneys and law firms. LegalShield and IDShield are products of Pre-Paid Legal Services, Inc. To learn more about LegalShield and IDShield, visit LegalShield.com and IDShield.com.
LegalShield Media Contact:
Hollon Kohtz, Director of Communications