A third of middle-class people would have to borrow money to pay an unexpected bill of £500, according to a survey.
Research by YouGov for The Times found 31% of middle class workers including professionals, junior managers and those in administrative jobs would struggle to pay the surprise bill, while around one-in-ten of the so-called ABC1 group would have to borrow to pay off a £100 bill immediately.
The survey of over 1,600 adults also found 46% of manual workers and the unemployed, classed as C2DE, would be unable to pay a £500 bill.
On average 38% of people across all social classes would have to borrow money to pay the same debt, with Midlands, Scotland and Wales seeing the toughest times.
In April figures released by the Bank of England showed consumer credit was growing at its fastest rate since 2005, raising fears borrowers may struggle with a rise in interest rates.
Of the people surveyed in May, 14% found themselves in severe financial straits and unable to pay off an unexpected bill of £100 without finding money elsewhere.
Young people between 18 and 24 were the worst affected by the bigger bill of £500, with nearly half stating that they would not be able to pay, compared with around a quarter of pensioners.
Researchers found women were less likely to have cash available than men.
One in four people said they would need to resort to putting a £300 bill on their credit card before paying off in full, while 13% would have to pay off the unplanned debt over time.
Just under one-in-ten people said they would have to borrow from friends and family to settle the bill and half said they would be able to pay for the bill from their current or savings accounts.