Make us your home page
Instagram

Too many surveys warn that too many of us live too close to financial edge

The country seems to be coming out of wrenching financial times. Our savings habits are not.

A series of recent surveys point to an abysmal lack of savings by many U.S. households despite an official end to the recession and dramatic declines in unemployment rates. Especially in Florida.

If more people have jobs, it's not reflected in the ability of many to save much — if any — money.

Most vulnerable: lower middle class households making between $25,000 and $50,000. Households making less than that range often have more access to social services and are, in that sense, poor but better protected. So says the seventh annual America Saves survey of savings habits, released Monday.

"We are an affluent society, and yet a shockingly high percentage of Americans are not prepared for retirement, and a large number do not have money for emergencies," says Stephen Brobeck, executive director of the Consumer Federation of America and a founder of America Saves.

About a third of Americans live within their means and think they are prepared for the long-term financial future, says Brobeck. Another third live within their means, but often are not prepared for the long term. And another third simply struggle to live within their means.

The America Saves survey results reinforce the findings of other recent peeks at the precarious state of the American wallet.

Example: The number of Americans who can afford to pay off their credit cards continues to drop, says a new Bankrate.com survey. It found that nearly 30 percent of Americans report having more credit card debt than emergency savings. That's the highest percentage in the past four years. And the survey also found that only 51 percent of Americans have enough cash in their emergency accounts to pay off their credit card debt. That's the lowest percentage since the firm began tracking the number in 2011.

This comes as the U.S. personal savings rate continues to fall, says Bankrate.com chief financial analyst Greg McBride.

"This is a reflection of the stagnant incomes, long-term unemployment and high household expenses that hamper the financial progress of many Americans," he says.

According to Brobeck, the recent recession hit households in two stages. The first stage hit middle- and upper-class households by hurting stock market investments and home values. After that, the unemployment rate soared and hit lower- and middle-class households.

Affluent people have largely recovered. But unemployment, underemployment and flat-lining wages still hurt lesser-income families that also may have accumulated debt in harder times.

"Florida has seen a 'hollowing out' of its middle-wage jobs," warns Tougher Choices: Shaping Florida's Future, yet another recent report by two economists for the LeRoy Collins Institute.

What Florida does not lack is an abundance of surveys pointing to way too many people living too close to the edge.

Robert Trigaux can be reached at rtrigaux@tampabay.com.

Most vulnerable: Lower middle class

Lower

$25K-$50K
Middle

$50K-$75K
Upper

$75K-$100K
Spend less than income,

save difference
69%82%81%
Reducing consumer debt

or debt-free
788891
Sufficient emergency fund638285
Lower

$25K-$50K
Middle

$50K-$75K
Upper

$75K-$100K
Spend less than income,

save difference
69%82%81%
Reducing consumer debt

or debt-free
788891
Sufficient emergency fund638285

3 ways to start saving

1. Start small. Can you find a way to put aside $5 a day for starters?

2. Use tax-advantaged retirement accounts. Does your employer offer matching retirement savings? Sign up and immediately watch your savings plan take off. Even without matching funds, a 401(k) or similar retirement account offers tax advantages.

3. Automate. If money automatically gets transferred from your paycheck into a savings or retirement account each month, it becomes easier to build up funds.

Source: Seventh annual America Saves survey of savings habits

Too many surveys warn that too many of us live too close to financial edge 02/24/14 [Last modified: Monday, February 24, 2014 10:54pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Ousted to political Siberia by Corcoran, Kathleen Peters sets sights on Pinellas Commission

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — The perks of power in Tallahassee are a coveted chairmanship, a Capitol office in a prime location and a prominent seat on the House floor. Now Rep. Kathleen Peters has lost all three, but here's the twist: Her trip to "Siberia" might actually help her reach the next step on the Tampa Bay political …

    Rep. Kathleen Peters, R-South Pasadena, has been relegated to the back row in the State House chamber, moved to a fouth floor office and stripped of her job as chairwoman of a House subcommittee after a series of disagreements with House Speaker Richard Corcoran. [SCOTT KEELER | Tampa Bay Times]
  2. UPS relocates express operations from St. Pete-Clearwater to TIA

    Airlines

    TAMPA — United Parcel Service Inc. is switching airports for its express air operations. Beginning in October, UPS will relocate from St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport to Tampa International Airport.

    Beginning in October, UPS will move from St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport to Tampa International Airport. [Associated Press file photo]

  3. Richard Corcoran takes aim at public financing of campaigns

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O'Lakes, may not be running for governor — not yet anyway — but his latest idea will get the attention of those who are.

    House Speaker Richard Corcoran wants the Constitu?tion Revision Commis?sion to ask voters to repeal the state’s system of partial financing of statewide elections.
  4. Related Group breaks ground on complex at old Tampa Tribune site

    Real Estate

    TAMPA — When Miami developer Jorge Perez first eyed a 4.2-acre tract on the west bank of the Hillsborough River two years ago, people asked him if he wouldn't prefer to build on the opposite side closer to the downtown core.

    No way.

    From left, Related Group executive associate Arturo Penaa, Jorge Perez, center, founder and CEO of the Related Group, Mayor Bob Buckhorn and Steve Patterson, the President of Related Development dig their shovels  during the groundbreaking ceremony of the 400 unit Riverwalk Manor apartment complex on site of the old Tampa Tribune building on Wednesday. [OCTAVIO JONES | Times]
  5. Eat 3-course meals for $35 at these 100 restaurants for Orlando's Magical Dining Month

    Food & Dining

    In the early 1900s, hotels offered "table d'hote" or "prix fixe" menus as a form of loss leader. Hotels didn't necessarily make money on these lower-priced, multi-course meals, often served at communal tables, but they made up for it on the booze. Prohibition may have contributed to a gradual shift toward a la carte …

    Bulla Gastrobar serves a variety of Spanish and Portuguese dishes.