Half of Americans Save, Half Don’t

The proportion of adult Americans who say they have been able to save money within the past 12 months splits practically down the middle, according to a new survey by the American Institute of CPAs and Harris Interactive.

The survey found that 54 percent of the 1,009 adult Americans polled say they have not been able to save money over the past 12 months, but 46 percent said they have. Those who managed to save money said they did so by curtailing their spending. Most of their cutbacks were on discretionary items, such as dining out (50 percent), travel (46 percent) and clothing (35 percent), though 31 percent of the savers said they’ve curtailed home renovations. Much smaller proportions of the respondents said they reduced outlays for medical expenses (16 percent) and higher education (12 percent).

The overwhelming majority of savers are optimistic about their future saving practices, saying they expect to save either as much (44 percent) or more than they are now (44 percent).

“Saving is an essential element of financial literacy,” said Jordan Amin, chair of the AICPA National CPA Financial Literacy Commission, in a statement. “But financial literacy, more than anything, is thinking strategically about your saving and spending. We never say ‘Don’t spend,’ but we do urge people to judge spending prudently.”

Sixty percent of all Americans, whether they have been able to save or not, still regard saving as part of their lifestyle. In contrast, 33 percent consider saving a “necessary burden,” something they don’t want to do, but feel they must.

Of the 54 percent of Americans who have not been able to save, 42 percent said their expenses surpassed their income. The reasons they gave included financial emergencies, unemployment, a recent job loss, and credit card debt.

The majority of survey respondents (54 percent) were employed. Among them, nearly two in three experienced some form of job-related financial reduction in the past 12 to 18 months. The two most frequently cited were delayed or eliminated wage increases (33 percent) and reduced or eliminated bonuses (32 percent). Others included additional working hours without a corresponding increase in income, cuts in health benefits, wage reductions and elimination of 401(k) matches.

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