Getty Images/Science Photo Libra
By Kerry Close
February 24, 2016

If you don’t think you’re saving enough for retirement, you’re not alone, according to an annual survey of Americans’ saving habits.

Only about 40% of U.S. households say they’re making good or excellent progress toward achieving their savings goals, about the same percentage as last year. And the number of respondents who are putting away at least 5% of their income ticked down slightly, to 49% from 52% in 2015.

The survey, released for America Saves Week by the Consumer Federation of America and the American Savings Education Council, found that the biggest obstacle to saving is high day-to-day expenses. About 27% of respondents cited the cost of living as the main reason they aren’t able to save enough for retirement. Another 25% cited debt and related expenses, including student debt.

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Still, the results were not all bleak: 70% of respondents reported “at least some progress” in hitting their savings goals. Additionally, 63% said they would have sufficient emergency savings to cover unforeseen expenses like car repairs or a doctor visit.

Here are other major takeaways:

  • Women save less than men. Just 36% of women, compared with 44% of men, reported good or excellent saving progress. But that’s not because they have inferior saving habits. In fact, a Vanguard report from last year found that women are more likely than men to enroll in a 401(k) plan. They also save about 7% to 16% more of their income. The reason they’re falling behind: the wage gap. “The fact that men have larger incomes and financial assets than women makes it easier for them to save,” said Stephen Brobeck, director of the Consumer Federation of America. The gender disparity was also seen when participants were asked if they were spending less than their income and saving the difference: 72% of men said yes, versus 60% of women.
  • People might be getting more realistic about retirement. The survey shows that 52% of nonretired respondents feel they’re saving enough to enjoy a “desirable” standard of living in retirement. That’s a dip from 55% last year and 58% in 2008. But that could mean that people are learning more about their needs in retirement—and more realistically reframing their definition of responsible savings. So the decline could in fact reflect a “very positive trend,” said Harry Conaway, chairman of the American Savings Education Council.
  • Planners are more successful savers. When asked if they knew their net worth, 61% of respondents who have a plan to save for retirement said yes, compared with just 33% of those without a plan. Similarly, 79% of planners—versus 46% of people who don’t plan—say they have sufficient savings to cover unexpected expenses.

So what can you do to improve your saving habits? In addition to taking advantage of an employer-sponsored retirement savings plan, researchers advised automatically sending a portion of your paycheck directly to your savings account. And to hang on to more of your hard-earned cash, check out these 31 ridiculously easy ways to save every day.

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