“Set a goal, make a plan, and save automatically.” This is the motto of America Saves Week, which begins on February 27.
America Saves – a project of the American Savings Education Council – calls on Americans to do all three of those things to try and improve their finances. Each winter, it surveys Americans to see how well (or poorly) they are saving. The survey is in its tenth year, and perhaps some recent trends will be reversed in the 2017 edition.
Last year, 52% of Americans said that they were saving adequately for retirement. These people felt that they were positioning themselves for a retirement with a “desirable standard of living” thanks to the way they were accumulating and investing assets. (1,2)
You have to wonder about the other 48%. Are they fully aware that, due to their lack of saving and investing, they are setting themselves up to retire to a lower quality of life?
Back in 2008, 58% of Americans felt they were saving enough for their “second acts.” In fact, 55% thought so as recently as 2015. The survey did not probe to learn the factors behind the recent drop, but perhaps it will do that this year. (2)
In the 2016 survey, 40% of people felt they were “good” or “excellent” savers. One factor possibly influencing this percentage was the degree of automated contributions to savings vehicles. Only 43% of last year’s respondents said that they had ways to save automatically besides employer-sponsored retirement plans. (1,2)
Are women saving enough for retirement? One finding from the 2016 survey illustrates their difficulty in doing so: 72% of male respondents reported that they were living on less than they earned and saving the difference, and 60% of female respondents said that they were doing the same thing. (2)
Last year, 74% of men responding to the survey indicated they were making progress in terms of their savings, compared with 67% of women. While only 54% of the men who answered the survey said that they knew their net worth, merely 41% of the women did. (2)
There is some good news here. Judging by the previous paragraph, a majority of Americans believed that they were improving as savers in 2016. Sixty-three percent of the 2016 respondents said that they had enough saved up in their emergency funds to pay for the cost of a suddenly needed auto repair or an unanticipated doctor’s visit. Forty percent said that they would readily direct 10% or more of their pay into a workplace retirement plan that offered gradual auto-escalation of contributions. (2)
Saving can be difficult, but it is also necessary. The first step is living a little below your means, so you can save and invest a little of what you earn. Too many people live “on margin” – credit cards maxed out, paying their creditors first and themselves second (if at all). Resolve to save consistently and invest consistently in pursuit of a comfortable retirement and other great goals.
1 - americasavesweek.org/about-america-saves-week/ [2/22/17]
2 - nextavenue.org/economys-up-but-progress-on-savings-is-down/ [2/22/16]
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