young man in tie in drivers seat Older vehicles—the kind usually sought out by peopleon a tight budget—are downright expensive, having risen in pricealmost 75 percent since 2010. (Photo: Shutterstock)

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People at the lower end of the payscale are having a tough timemaking ends meet, regardless of the so-called "booming" economy.And it looks as if they'll be having an even tougher time in monthsto come, threatening any claim they might otherwise have tofinancial wellness.

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The reason? Their cars, according to a Reuters report.

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Older vehicles—the kind usually sought out by people on a tightbudget—are downright expensive, having risen inprice almost 75 percent since 2010, and the outlook is not brightfor that to ease any time soon. The result is a dizzying rise incar loan delinquencies among those with the lowest credit scores,and that can jeopardize not only people's financial wellness buttheir jobs as well.

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The report cites car shopping site Edmunds saying that10-year-old cars—the vintage commonly driven by people making under$40,000 a year—now average $8,657. That's thanks to a drop inproduction during the Great Recession—which didn't pick up againtill after the Great Recession started to recede.

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New cars, in contrast, have risen 25 percent over the sameperiod. And not only are more than 7 million people 90 days or morebehind on their car loans, but George Augustaitis, director ofautomotive industry analytics at CarGurus Inc., is cited in thereport saying that the available inventory of vehicles costing lessthan $10,000 won't approach more normal levels until 2022.

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"This is pinching people at the worst point possible," IvanDrury, Edmunds' senior manager of industry analysis, is quotedsaying. "If you need basic A to B transportation, you have to getan older car that needs more repairs and has more wear-and-tearissues."

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That means people are being squeezed on both ends—in carpayments and in repairs. If either one gives way—an inability tomake those "easy monthly payments" or a big repair bill—often aworker can't get to work at all, particularly in areas where thereis little or no reliable public transportation. And at that point,financial wellness becomes a joke.

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How their employees get to work might be one more factor foremployers to consider when they examine financial wellness andprograms to improve their workers' financial situations. Otherwisethey might not be dealing just with financially stressed employees,but also workers who can no longer get to work to do theirjobs.

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Marlene Satter

Marlene Y. Satter has worked in and written about the financial industry for decades.