Being middle class in America no longer guarantees the same comforts and financial security that it used to.

According to a poll of 2,500 adults commissioned by the National True Cost of Living Coalition, 65% of respondents who are considered middle class said they’re struggling financially.

The study defines the middle class as anyone who earns more than 200% of the federal poverty level, or at least $60,000 per year for a family of four.

Middle-class Americans struggle to save for the future, pay for emergency expenses, and pay down debt. They’re also having a hard time saving enough for retirement and affording housing.

But arguably, the worst part is that middle-class respondents don’t expect their financial status to improve in any meaningful way for the rest of their lives.

David Jones, co-chair of the National True Cost of Living Coalition, said Americans from all walks of life are “expressing the same kinds of issues.”

Politicians will likely play on these frustrations ahead of the presidential election this fall, but the issues aren’t “going away no matter who becomes president,” he said.

The study provides yet another demonstration of the growing disconnect between economic data and how Americans feel financially.

Data versus experience

On the surface, the U.S. economy is outgrowing expectations thanks to a strong jobs market and resilient consumer spending.

But that seemingly rosy picture doesn't take into account the fact that Americans are spending into debt, working multiple jobs to make ends meet, and seeing their paychecks get ravaged by inflation.

For example, in the last four years alone, average rents have outpaced wage growth by 1.5 times. Over the same period, the costs of insurance, motor vehicle repair, and some food items have also skyrocketed.

It’s no wonder why 65% of Americans in a New York Fed study said higher costs have “made their financial situation worse,” including 19% who said rising prices have made their lives “much worse.”

A separate survey conducted on behalf of The Guardian found that more than half of Americans think the economy is already in a recession, even though economists emphatically say it’s not.

Jennifer Jones Austin, CEO of the Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies, an anti-poverty group, said the economic data and Americans’ perceptions simply don’t add up.

The economy is supposedly booming, “and yet many Americans are still gasping for air financially,” she said. “They simply don’t have the breathing room to plan beyond their present needs.”