What is Brittle Financial Health? (& Financial Fragility Test)


Some people dream about being rich.

Some yearn for financial health, paving the path to sustainable wealth.

Some only dream while living with brittle financial health.

They dream of riches, of healthy money habits, and of waking up with growing investments instead of debt. Then, they wake up from the dream broke, their debt still growing, they have no money saved, and their retirement looks bleak.

Does it sound familiar? Do you suspect that you are financially fragile?

Here, after offering you a glimpse into financial fragility, I share a simple test to help you understand your situation.

Are you ready to face your money situation? If yes, keep reading.

Understanding Financial Fragility (or Brittle Financial Health)

What is Personal Financial Fragility

Personal financial fragility is when an individual or a household cannot cope with unexpected financial demands without resorting to drastic and harmful measures in the long run. This is usually because the person, or household, doesn’t have sufficient savings, has low and irregular income and has negative monthly cash flow.

Financially fragile people cannot cope with paying for emergencies like car repairs, washing machine breaks, and roof leaks, and they certainly cannot survive job loss.

Financial Fragility is Not Only About Money, But Also About Life

Financial fragility has consequences reaching well beyond money. For instance, financial fragility can affect:

  • Health. Financial stress adversely affects our health. The stress of not being able to meet financial obligations can lead to mental health issues such as anxiety and depression. It can also exacerbate or lead to physical health problems, as financial constraints might prevent individuals from seeking timely treatments.
  • Quality of Life. Financial fragility can force you to cut back on essentials such as food, heating and housing. It may also mean fewer opportunities for leisure, education, and personal development, all contributing to a lower overall quality of life.
  • Employment. Financial fragility can affect job performance because of the stress it causes. It might also limit your ability to chase better job opportunities if, for example, you cannot afford to move to a new city or invest in further education and skills training.
  • Social and Family Relationships. The pressures of financial fragility can strain relationships. Financial insecurity can lead to family conflicts, affect people’s social lives, and impact their ability to contribute to community activities.

The Importance of Recognising Brittle Financial Health

Why am I telling you all this?

Knowing whether you are financially fragile and at what level is important.

Knowing is better than suspecting that things are not flowers and roses with your finances. I remember how torturous it was to suspect that we had too much debt. Knowing exactly how much debt we had was the catalyst to becoming debt-free.

Being financially fragile may be scary, but it is not forever. Knowing where you stand will help you move forward and escape the fragility trap.

Do you want to know how financially fragile you are?

Complete the test in the next section!

How Brittle is Your Financial Health or How to Test Your Level of Financial Fragility

Here is a simple test to position you on the financial fragility scale.

Please answer each question as precisely and truthfully as you can. Next to each answer, there is a number. When finished, add the number of points you have collected.

  1. Do you have enough easy-access savings to cover your expenses for at least three months?
  • Yes – 1
  • No – 0
  1. Your monthly debt payment (excluding mortgage) is:
  • less than 2% of your after-tax income – 3
  • 2-14% of your after-tax income – 2
  • 15-24% of your after-tax income – 1
  • over 25% of your after-tax income – 0
  1. On your monthly mortgage/rent, you pay:
  • less than 10% of your household income (after tax) – 2
  • 11-35% of your household income (after tax) – 1
  • over 35% of your household income (after tax) – 0
  1. Can you comfortably cover short-term bills with cash (e.g. insurance, tax bills, yearly subscriptions, etc.)?
  • Yes – 1
  • No – 0
  1. Do you comfortably cover regular and essential expenses with your current income or assets?
  • Yes – 1
  • No – 0
  1. How difficult would it be to find £500 in an emergency within a month?
  • No problem at all – 2
  • Possible but stretching – 1
  • Impossible – 0
  1. How often do you experience anxiety over debts or making ends meet?
  • Never – 3
  • Occasionally – 2
  • Often – 1
  • All the time – 0
  1. Your net worth is:
  • over £250,000 -4
  • £100,000 – £250,000 – 3
  • £50,000 – £99,999 – 2
  • less than £50,000 – 1
  • Negative – 0

(You can learn more about calculating your net worth here.)

  1. Have you taken out payday loans or credit card cash advances in the past year?
  • Yes – 0
  • No – 1
  1. Is your income predictable?
  • Yes – 1
  • No – 0
  1. Your annual income before tax is:
  • less than £15,000 – 0
  • £15,000 – £24,999 – 1
  • £25,000 – £49,999 – 2
  • £50,000 – £74,999 – 3
  • over 75,000 – 4
  1. Do you budget regularly?
  • Yes – 1
  • No – 0
  1. Do you save a portion of your income every month?
  • Yes – 1
  • No – 0
  1. Do you contribute to a pension scheme?
  • Yes – 1
  • No – 0
  1. When faced with adversity is your first reaction:
  • I can’t do that! – 0
  • How can I do that? – 1

Interpreting Your Financial Fragility Test Results

Here is how to interpret the results of your test:

  • 0-7 points – High Financial Fragility
  • 8-14 points – Moderate Financial Fragility
  • 15-19 points – Low Financial Fragility
  • Over 19 points – Financially Healthy


  1. If you are highly financially fragile, you have a high level of debt, low savings and investments, no assets, low income, no emergency fund, no retirement savings, limited knowledge about personal finance and a closed mindset.
  2. You are moderately financially fragile if you have moderate debt, some savings and investments, some albeit limited assets, an average income, a small emergency fund, some retirement savings, some but insufficient knowledge about personal finance, and an open mindset.
  3. Low financial fragility means that you have low debt, moderate savings and investments, assets, an average to high income, sufficient emergency fund, retirement savings, knowledge about personal finance, and an open mindset.
  4. You are financially healthy if you have no consumer debt, have sufficient and growing savings and investments, have assets, high and regular income, an emergency fund to cover at least six months of living expenses, have retirement savings and are knowledgeable about personal finance.



The consequences of brittle financial health on your life are serious enough to deserve your attention and action.

Now that you know financial fragility and how to test your position, it is time to act.

Have you completed the financial fragility test?

Please share in the comments (and suggestions about how to improve the test are always welcome).

My next post will discuss moving from financial fragility to stability.

Photo by Jilbert Ebrahimi on Unsplash

2 thoughts on “What is Brittle Financial Health? (& Financial Fragility Test)”

  1. Hi. Great test and really interesting. I think you might do a different one for retired people?

    And the test could be a great way of aiding self-reflection about how to get healthier.


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