Americans’ Savings Habits Remain Unchanged

Only about half of Americans have good savings habits, and many are not saving enough for retirement.

According to the sixth annual national survey assessing household saving, released Monday as part of America Saves Week (February 25 to March 2), a little more than half of Americans (54%) have a savings plan with specific goals.

In addition, only 43% said they have a spending plan that allows them to save enough money to achieve the goals of their savings plan, and 50% of nonretired individuals said they save for retirement at work through a 401(k) or other contributory plan. “When it comes to saving, we know that having a plan makes a big difference,” Dallas Salisbury, chairman of ASEC and president and CEO of the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI), said during a teleconference about the survey results.

While nearly two-thirds of respondents (65%) reported they have sufficient emergency savings to pay for unexpected expenses like car repairs or a doctor visit, only 49% of the nonretired said they are saving enough for a retirement in which they will have a desirable standard of living.

Although the survey did not reveal a severe deterioration in savings between February 2012 and February 2013, there was also no marked improvement. The 2012 survey found that 66% of people were spending less than income and saving the difference, while 65% were doing the same in 2013. In 2012, 66% of respondents reported having sufficient emergency savings, compared with 65% in 2013. In regard to retirement savings, there was even a slight decline—among the nonretired, 51% said they were saving enough for retirement in 2012, versus 49% in 2013.

“Clearly, the lingering recession has had a great effect on many Americans,” said Stephen Brobeck, executive director of the Consumer Federation of America (CFA) and a founder of America Saves. 


Americans should keep in mind three basic tips to save, Salisbury said: Set a goal, make a plan and save automatically. Employers can help with this plan by using automatic tools such as payroll deductions, automatic enrollment and automatic escalation, he added.

Having a plan is important because those with a savings plan are more likely to spend less than their income, Brobeck pointed out.

Jeanne Thompson, vice president of Retirement and Market Insights at Fidelity Investments, suggested that in addition to saving, employees should avoid cashing out their retirement plans when changing jobs and should also choose an investment strategy that works best for them.  

Employers and others interested in participating in America Saves Week can use the America Saves Week Toolkit, which includes resources such as flyers and posters to promote savings, a social media kit and outreach ideas.

The survey was released the first day of America Saves Week, an annual event where government, business and nonprofit organizations at the national, state and local levels work together to promote good savings behavior. This annual effort is coordinated by America Saves, managed by CFA, and the American Savings Education Council (ASEC), managed by EBRI. 

These organizations commissioned the survey, which was undertaken by Opinion Research Corporation International from February 7 to 10. The survey consisted of 1,008 adult Americans using split-sample (landline and cell) phone interviews. More than 1,300 national, state and local organizations are joining the seventh annual America Saves Week to encourage and assist personal savings.