Today's scary stat: 47% of Americans say they can't afford an unexpected $400 expense

Nearly half of Americans say they would need to borrow or sell something to pay a $400 bill they didn't expect (Gene Han)
Nearly half of Americans say they would need to borrow or sell something to pay a $400 bill they didn't expect (Gene Han)

The economic struggles of ordinary Americans are getting a good airing this presidential season and a statistical finding from the Federal Reserve provides ammunition for a candidate in either party who wants to make the case that too many people have been left behind.

Washington Post reporter Hunter Schwarz plugged some Fed data into a little segment called "By the numbers", in the newspaper’s June 8, 2015, edition:

"47: The percentage of Americans who can’t pay for an unexpected $400 expense through savings or credit cards, without selling something or borrowing money, according to the Federal Reserve."

The dollar figure caught our eye. It seemed surprisingly low.

But it checks out. Read how.