Over Past Decade, Savings Habits Eroded, But Perceived Savings Outcomes Deteriorated Then Improved, According to Tenth Annual Savings Survey

For Immediate Release: February 27, 2017

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Few Lower Income Americans Report Good Progress in Meeting Savings Needs

Over 1,500 Organizations Participate in Eleventh Annual America and Military Saves Weeks

Washington — The tenth annual America Saves Week survey revealed that fewer than two-fifths (38%) of American households report good or excellent progress in meeting their savings needs, with over one-quarter (27%) indicating no progress at all. The survey findings were released on the first day of the eleventh annual America and Military Saves Weeks. More than 1,500 nonprofit, government, and business organizations at the national, state, and local levels have joined to promote personal savings.

America Saves, managed by the Consumer Federation of America (CFA), and the American Savings Education Council (ASEC) coordinate the Week. With their support, ORC International undertakes the savings survey. This research firm interviewed a representative sample of 1,007 adult Americans on January 26-29 by landline and cell phone. The margin of error is plus or minus three percentage points. The survey data is available to the press on request. Over Past Decade, Perceived Savings Outcomes Worsened Then Improved Analyzing data from all ten annual surveys reveals that perceived savings outcomes first worsened then improved somewhat, as the table below suggests.

  2008 2013 2016 2017
Save at least 5% of income 53% 46% 49% 48%
Save no income 23 29 28 23
Sufficient emergency savings 71 65 63 65
Sufficient retirement savings 58 50 52 54
No or paying down consumer debt 77 75 75 79

“The Great Recession and recovery from this debacle help explain these trends,” noted Stephen Brobeck, CFA Executive Director and a founder of America Saves. “During the decade, employment, incomes, stock prices, and home values declined then rose, first depressing personal saving and then allowing it to grow,” he added. Between 2007 and 2013, according to the Federal Reserve Board’s Survey of Consumer Finances, median net worth (in 2013 dollars) declined by 40.0 percent, from $135.4 thousand to $81.2 thousand. Because of the economic recovery, the 2016 survey, expected to be released in the coming year, should show gains in household net worth. Over Past Decade, Savings Habits Eroded Surprisingly, during the past decade saving habits eroded, as the table below indicates.

  2008 2013 2016 2017
Know net worth 54% 49% 47% 45%
Have savings plan with goals 62 54 52 46
Save for retirement at work 55 50 49 46
Automatic saving outside work 42 41 43 40

Those who know their net worth are more likely, than those who do not, to allocate their income to saving rather than spending. Research has shown that those with a saving plan save far more than those who do not. The only effective way for most Americans to save is automatically at or outside work. “The erosion of saving habits during the economic recovery was unexpected,” noted Brobeck. “I suspect that low savings yields and less promotion of saving by many banks and credit unions had something to do with this, as did the preoccupation of some households with obtaining relief from crushing debt burdens,” he added. Few Lower Income Americans Report Good Progress in Meeting Savings Needs Whether Americans report making progress in meeting their savings needs is strongly associated with household income. Nearly two-thirds (66%) of those with incomes $100,000 and over report good or excellent savings progress, with only seven percent indicating no progress. In contrast, only 14 percent of those with incomes below $25,000 report good or excellent savings progress, and 58 percent said they are making no progress at all. These numbers are consistent with the percentages of the two income groups who said they were saving at least 5 percent of their incomes – 77 percent of the upper income group but only 24 percent of the lower income group. Only seven percent of the upper income group, but 53 percent of the lower income group, said they were saving nothing at all.

  Under $25k $25-50k $50-75k $75-100k Over $100k
G/E savings progress 14% 32% 48% 52% 66%
No savings progress 58 30 16 13 7
Save 5%+ of income  24 43 55 59 77
Save no income 53 26 13 15 7

“While it is difficult for many lower-income families to build savings, most have the ability to save funds that will help meet emergencies in the near future and supplement Social Security payments in retirement,” said Brobeck. “The most effective way to do this is through automatic deposits from paychecks and/or checking accounts into regular and retirement savings accounts,” he added. More Than 1,500 Organizations Join America and Military Saves Week to Encourage Savings During America Saves Week and Military Saves Week (Feb. 27-March 4, 2017), organizations across the country and military installations around the world promote savings and encourage millions of people to assess their savings status. This year’s themes are:

“The research is clear that the key to successful saving is to have a savings plan,” said Nancy Register, director of America Saves. “America Saves Week is the perfect opportunity to set a savings goal, make a plan, and save automatically.” “America Saves Week is a great way to help educate individuals on the most effective savings habits they can incorporate into their lives,” said Carolyn Pemberton, program coordinator for ASEC. “It’s important to raise individual awareness of the small and large steps that can help increase individual savings.” #ImSavingFor Contest To incentivize savings during America Saves Week 2017, America Saves is once again offering its annual #ImSavingFor video and photo contest. The America Saves Week 2017 #ImSavingFor contest is sponsored by Clearpoint, a Division of MMI. To enter to win the $1,000 grand prize, savers—old and new—can submit a photo or video of their savings story or goal at americasavesweek.org/imsavingfor.

Download the America Saves Week 2017 infographic.

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America Saves is a campaign managed by the nonprofit Consumer Federation of America that uses the principles of behavioral economics and social marketing to motivate, encourage, and support low- to moderate-income households to save money, reduce debt, and build wealth. America Saves encourages individuals and families to take the America Saves pledge and organizations to promote savings year-round and during America Saves Week. Learn more at americasaves.org and americasavesweek.org. American Savings Education Council (ASEC), a program of the Employee Benefit Research Institute Education and Research Fund (EBRI-ERF), is a nonprofit national coalition of public- and private-sector organizations committed to making retirement planning and saving a priority for all Americans. Learn more at choosetosave.org/asec/.