Why American Consumers Are Less Likely to Have Savings Accounts

NEW YORK (MainStreet) — According to finance guru Casey Bond, the average savings account interest rate in the last quarter of 2014 is 0.17%. That's not much, even if you have six figures in your savings account. So, is it any wonder why savings accounts are being abandoned? If you're really "lucky" you can do your research and score a savings account with 0.95% interest, but still the returns are so slim that you may as well stick your cash in a checking account and streamline the process. Savings accounts are certainly ubiquitous, but that doesn't mean people are in the mood to save by using them.

If you (still) have a savings account, consider Suze Orman's advice on what it's for: "Money you know you need or want to spend in the next few years is savings. Money you keep handy for an emergency belongs in savings. Money you hope to use soon for a down payment on a house belongs in savings. And all savings belong in a low-risk bank savings account or money market account." It's basically like a checking account these days without the debit card.

However, if you really want to watch your investments grow, consider branching out. Here are the main reasons Americans are ditching savings accounts and what they're doing instead:

1. Because it has no return, and they're seeking out higher risks

This doesn't mean everyone's jumping into penny stock trading or high yield/high risk stocks. Yet, there is zero risk in a savings account and, as such, almost zero return. More and more Americans are using DIY stock trading sites, apps and tools to learn the market and dabble in moderate stock trading.

2. Because you have no "skin in the game," like with a startup

Perhaps not surprisingly, folks who live and work in the technology startup communities of many major American cities shy away from such a simple investment, because there's a whole lot more interest in starting their own potential money-maker.

"These days everyone has a second job or a startup idea, and they would rather invest their money in a startup," says Murray Newlands, an angel investor in San Francisco. "Many of these entrepreneurs, if they have the opportunity, no matter how small, of getting a big return, then they'd rather do that than save their money. With decreasing job security, having your own startup and the potential of a second income is increasingly seen as reducing your income risk. Even if it's pretty risky overall."


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3. Because it's too accessible...and tempting

Most people have their savings and checking accounts linked, and you generally see those funds when you check your mobile banking app or online balance. It's just too tempting to treat it like a second checking account. Some people research high-yield CDs and keep them in a different bank than their checking account bank. You can check out the returns on CDs or do your own research for maximum results.

4. Because it's what your parents did

There's no denying that younger generations aren't nearly as risk-averse as the Baby Boomers or their parents. While people in their 20s and 30s may have lived through the Great Recession, the oldest Americans lived through the Great Depression. Frugality and safe investments are in their blood, often because they grew up dirt poor and climbed their way into the middle class. The younger generations may have formed the opinion, unwisely or not, that their parents and grandparents just didn't take enough sensible risks. Savings accounts may seem to be representative of that type of frugal money management. In fact, there are many Baby Boomers who have accumulated at least some wealth, but who feel it's more appropriate to preserve some of it for their kids who may inherit it. Either way, there's now a retirement crisis looming, and younger generations don't want to make the same mistakes their elders did.

5. Because there's no instant gratification

Let's face it: There's no thrill in watching a couple of dollars magically appear in your savings account each month. As Denis Waitley quipped, "Chase your passion, not your pension." Americans want instant gratification, not the slow and steady route. People want to see that their investment is worthwhile when they get their statement each month. Therefore, it makes sense to invest more in a pension plan or 401(k) rather than put money into a tight-fisted savings account. Anyone who's explored these types of accounts knows they start to grow fast after you've had them for some years. If that's not placing a little passion in your pension, then nothing is.

Saving and investing is important, but not when there isn't any payout. Active investors today are increasingly likely to do their own research, search out their own companies for investments and even put their money in mutual funds before they rely on a savings account. Some are even willing to start their own ventures, despite the risks. Overall, the best plan for most people is to meet with a financial advisor and look at all the options.

-Written by John Boitnott for MainStreet

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