Increasingly, the construct of resilience has been used by social scientists and (social) policy makers in relation to individual resilience to economic hardship. There are a number of issues within the literature on the subject that are unresolved including: whether it is an attribute or a process; the extent to which resilience is a positive phenomenon; the extent to which individuals living in economic hardship have agency; and whether it is finite. The article unpacks these issues, drawing on qualitative data from a longitudinal study in Northern Ireland. It found resilience to be a negative experience for study participants, although they did exhibit a number of attributes that may be described as being positive. They were often unable to exercise ‘positive’, transformative agency, because the choices available were limited and pernicious in nature. The article concludes that as an analytical tool for exploring the experiences of people living in economic hardship, the construct of resilience is not helpful.