Middle- and lower-class Americans are still reeling from the recession and are not saving enough to secure their futures, according to the seventh annual survey assessing household savings.
The survey, prepared by a consortium of public and consumer organizations including the Consumer Federation of America, the American Savings Education Council, America Saves and the Employee Benefit and Research Institute, was released Monday in conjunction with the beginning of America Saves Week.
The ‘savings glass’ of Americans can be seen as half empty, rather than half full, as Americans continue to face saving challenges, Dallas L. Salisbury, chairman of the American Savings Education Council and president and CEO of EBRI, said at a press conference.
Only 35 percent of those surveyed said they are making excellent or good progress toward their savings goals, while 63 percent said they are making only fair or no progress.
“Only about one-third of Americans are living within their means and think they are prepared for the long term financial future," said Stephen Brobeck, executive director of the Consumer Federation of America and a founder of America Saves. "One-third are living within their means but are often not prepared for this long term future, and one-third are struggling to live within their means.”
Not all of the results of the survey are negative. Sixty-eight percent of the respondents said they are at least spending less than their income and saving the difference. This figure was up from 65 percent in 2013, though was much lower than the 73 percent in 2010.
The 2008-2009 recession hit the upper classes harder at first as investments and the housing market were affected, said Brobeck. The middle and lower classes are now suffering from continuing unemployment and underemployment.
One factor affecting savings, according to Salisbury, are the declining numbers of those who have a savings plan. The proportion of those with a savings plan with specific goals slipped from 55 percent in 2010 to 51 percent in 2014.
“As numerous studies have shown, those with a plan save much more effectively than those without one,” he said.
The CFP Board of Standards offered suggestions for improving savings. CFP Board’s Consumer Advocate Eleanor Blayney, said, “We need to reverse the ‘easy to be bad’ and ‘hard to be good’ dynamics that determine our spending and saving behavior.”
Blayney suggested making a spending list and sticking to it; writing checks instead of using a credit card; write down everything you spend for a month, and put money in savings first then pay bills.
National, state and local organizations are joining in the effort to promote savings. Additional information can be found at www.americasaves.org.