Three-quarters of Americans consider themselves to be financially stable, but more than 48 percent lack the savings they say they would need to achieve actual stability, according to a new survey.
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The survey, by banking giant Citi, found that 51 percent of the respondents plan to use their tax refunds this year to save, invest or pay down debt. However, 25 percent said they do not plan to save any money this year, even though a majority of them acknowledged that saving is important.
More than half (51 percent) of the 2,001 survey respondents said the amount of money they would need to achieve financial stability is less than $100,000 and more than one in five (22 percent) believe it to be less than $10,000. Americans understand the importance of savings—76 percent say it is very or extremely important—but nearly two-thirds of the respondents indicated they have no savings goals and 25 percent say they expect to save $0 in 2012.
While many Americans say they will not save in 2012, many of those getting a tax refund plan to save it or use it to pay bills or debt. Most (55 percent) expect or have already received a refund, and more than half say their top priority for it is to either save or invest it (29 percent) or pay off debt with it (22 percent). A quarter (25 percent) plan to pay bills with their tax refund and only 8 percent of the respondents said they would use it for a new purchase, while 7 percent said they would use the money to take a vacation.
Of those who expect a tax refund or have already received one, 27 percent said it would be less than $1,000, 17 percent expect between $1,000 and $2,000, 12 percent expect between $2,000 and $3,000 and 25 percent expect more than $3,000. The other 19 percent are unsure what they will get back. The average expected refund is $2,675.
Half of Americans (51 percent) realize that they do not save as much as they should, while just one-third (33 percent) say they do save as much as they think they should. This is especially true at lower income levels. Just 25 percent of Americans earning under $50,000 say they are saving as much as they think they should.
The survey, conducted by Hart Research Associates for Citi, also found that 58 percent of consumers believe local business conditions in their area will improve over the next 12 months, an 11-point increase from November 2011. In addition, 65 percent of the survey respondents said they are optimistic that their own financial situation will improve over the next 12 months, a three-point uptick. Both increases mirror a similar surge of optimism in the first quarter of 2011 that was then followed by a steady decline.