Americans + Saving Money = Wishful Thinking

51% of U.S. consumers say they don’t have $1,000 in readily-accessible savings. 41% say they don’t have even have $500. People want to save more, but they need help. polled 1,105 U.S. adults back in September of 2012 and found Americans have contradicting attitudes and perceptions about personal savings. Americans say they saved money last year… but have no money in their accounts now. They say they wish they were saving more… but don’t plan to actually sock money away this year. Those with a plan don’t have much surplus money to save.

35% confessed they don’t have any idea where they should put their savings — that is, if they had any.

Nearly one in three consumers admit they aren’t even familiar with the basic savings options available to them. When asked if they understood common financial instruments like mutual funds, stocks, bonds and money market accounts, 27% said “no.”

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Struggling to Save? Or Just Survive?

Of those polled, 59.9% said they live paycheck to paycheck, and 51.4% have less than $1,000 in readily accessible savings.

More than half of respondents (54%) in the survey said they may be stuck in this situation for the foreseeable future.

According to data from the Kaiser Family Foundation, health insurance premiums have more than doubled since 2000, up from $6,438 to $15,745 in 2012. During that same period, the Social Security Administration says wages grew just 19% to $41,673.

It could be easy to assume that those struggling with savings are also those who live at or near the poverty line. Not the case, according to Many have dual-incomes, nice homes, nice cars, nice toys and nice-sized credit card bills. But a nice lifestyle isn’t an indicator that someone is prepared to cover unexpected expenses. If they get into a bind and need some quick cash — perhaps for car repairs or a visit to the emergency room — they don’t have it.

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“Americans are finding that they need to make more and more sacrifices just to make ends meet,” said Charles Tran of “And one of the first things to go is saving for the future.”

“The truth is many families can tighten their belt and begin to save at least some cash for smaller emergencies. That way, they can cover unforeseen expenses that just pop up, like a car or household appliance breakdown.”

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Key Insights: Consumers need help saving money. This is where financial institutions — those that provide the very mechanisms used to save — can step in (read: financial education program). There are two kinds of “saving”: saving for something you want (like a vacation), and saving for things you need, usually something unexpected (like replacing a broken washing machine). When consumers save for positive reasons, PFM solutions with goal-based savings tools can be very powerful, giving users reminders and visual representations of their progress. For building an emergency savings fund, consumers need to be reminded of the myriad of things that can go wrong that require money — from the medical (What if a family member gets sick and you need to fly to Denver and stay a couple weeks?) to the mechanical (What if the air conditioner breaks down during a heat wave?).

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