Although the economy has recovered from the Great Recession, most Americans’ savings still seem to be caught in 2008.
New statistics show just 37% of Americans say they could cover an emergency expense — something around $1,000 — such as a car repair or emergency room visit, and about 30% said they would pay for it with credit cards or borrow it from family or friends. Also, perhaps most surprisingly only 37% of Millennials — who are known much more as savers than their predecessors — said they would pay for such expenses from savings.
“Even though the economy is on the up and up, it doesn’t surprise me whatsoever that many Americans haven’t changed their saving rates,” said Elle Kaplan, CEO of LexION Capital Management. “Many make the dangerous assumption that more income automatically correlates to more spending.
“While increased spending is a great method for temporarily feeling happy, it’s no way to build true long-lasting wealth or to be prepared for unexpected road bumps,” she added.
The survey, by Bankrate.com, also showed did show 23% would attempt to pay for an unexpected cost by reducing spending on other things such as going out to eat. Nevertheless, a large percentage seem likely to fall into debt.
“The average person has no idea how to manage their money effectively,” said Josh Nelson, founder and CEO of Keystone Financial in Colorado. “For example, only a third of Americans participate in retirement plans that are made available to them, despite the fact that there is often a matching contribution from their employer.”
Nelson added most Americans just lack the discipline to delay gratification.
“The number one factor in one's financial success comes to whether they are living below their means or not,” he said. “Accumulating wealth is only possible for those that spend less than what they earn, regardless of income level, family upbringing, etc.”
Kaplan suggested a surefire method for building up one’s savings is setting up an automatic transfer. She said it allows people to save without even thinking about it — the money goes into the person’s savings account as soon as it hits the paycheck.
“I advise clients to build six to eight months of barebones living expenses in their savings accounts for rainy days,” she said. “You can’t predict when a bad event will happen, but you can prepare for it. This emergency fund is the vital money that lets you rest easy knowing you can handle any unexpected event that comes your way.”
Dan Blacharski, a spokesperson for MoneyLend.com, said since the economic disasters of 2007 and the subsequent American Recovery and Restoration Act (ARRA), long-term growth has been reduced to less than half of the 1.9% annual rate seen historically between 1860 and 2007.
“While the government's actions may have prevented another Great Depression, we're still seeing a ‘new normal’ of slow growth, wage stagnation and growing inequality – and even though unemployment may be down, we are seeing a reduced hours per capita,” Blacharski said.
“Also, we are seeing more insurmountable student loan debt as the cost of higher education continues to increase more rapidly relative to the price of other goods,” he added.
Blacharski said despite low interest rates set by the Fed, those who need to borrow are increasingly turned away by banks and have to look toward more expensive alternative loan sources like payday loans or pawn shops.
“Overall, people aren't saving, because for working- and middle-class Americans, there is very little left over to save,” Blacharski said.
If you do want to save, make a goal and a plan to achieve it, said Rochelle Odesser, vice president at the Madison Planning Group in New York. Otherwise, most people will fall flat of their savings objective.
“Unless it is something that is automatically taken out of their paycheck and it is not accessible, they will not save it,” she said.