Many Americans Don't Know Total Financial Picture

Although a majority of Americans are saving for their retirement, more than one-quarter are not, according to a new survey.

An even larger number — more than one-third, or roughly 76 million adults — say they do not have any non-retirement savings, said the Consumer Financial Literacy Survey released today by the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC) and MSN Money.

A majority of the public does not have a sufficient emergency fund, defined as three to six months income saved to fall back on in rough times.

Paying Bills

Many Americans struggle with mortgage payments and paying bills on time, the survey said. One in every 10 Americans with a mortgage, or roughly 10 million adults, report being late or missing a mortgage payment in the last year.

Millions have serious difficulties paying bills each month — most notably Generation Y. Only 59%, or roughly 23 million of the young adults in Generation Y (ages 18 to 29) pay their bills on time every month.

While a majority of the public reports that they pay their bills on time and do not have any debts in collections, roughly 15 million adults (7%), are either getting calls from collectors or seriously considering filing for bankruptcy.

Higher income households and older Americans are more likely to stay on top of their bills. Whites and Latinos are more likely to pay their bills on time and stay clear of collections than blacks, the survey said.

Keeping Track

Similar to the findings from 2007, only a minority of Americans say they keep close track of what they their typical monthly expenses are. Although a majority of the public has at least a somewhat good idea of where their money goes each month, nearly two in 10, or roughly 40 million adults, keep little or no track at all.

How closely Americans manage their money continues to not vary by gender, age, or income, the survey said.

Looking Ahead

Americans worry about future income growth. Only one-quarter of Americans expect their income to outpace inflation. More than half of all Americans believe their income will not keep pace with inflation or stay even; this worry is greatest among Americans in the Midwest at nearly 70%.

“If there were ever a time that Americans needed to embrace financial literacy, it is now, “said Susan C. Keating, president and CEO of the NFCC.”The NFCC is proud to make public the results of this survey in hopes that it will be a wake-up call to consumers. We live in a credit-dominated society and it is important that consumers avail themselves to the many opportunities to sharpen their financial skills and avoid any traps along the path to financial stability.”

To view the complete survey, go to