4 sad facts about Americans’ savings and what you can do to fix it


Save more and spend less. If you’re a Clark Howard fan, then you’re probably familiar with this concept, even if you haven’t quite figured out how to make it work in your life. And that’s the case for a lot of Americans today, according to a new survey.

A lot of people may understand the general idea that in order to save, you have to spend less than you make, but they’re still struggling to make it happen. In fact, a large portion of Americans aren’t saving anywhere near what they need to be saving for emergencies, retirement and major life events.

Read more: 7 things debt-free people never do

The Consumer Federation of America and the American Savings Education Council recently conducted a survey as a part of America Saves Week, which is an effort to encourage people to make automatic contributions to their savings. The ninth annual survey includes responses from a nationally representative sample of 1,004 American adults.

According to a report from Credit.com, the leading statistic from the survey is this: Fewer than half of Americans are making good or excellent progress toward their savings goals.

And that’s not all. Check out the list below from Credit.com of the survey’s four most important facts — plus our solutions to help you turn things around!

4 sad facts about Americans’ savings + what you can do to fix it!

1. Just over half of Americans aren’t even saving 5% of their income.


Only 49% of people reported saving at least 5% of their income. To put this in perspective, a 10% to 15% savings rate is often recommended.

SOLUTION: If you aren’t saving anything, or you’re saving very little, there’s one very easy way to boost your savings — without even missing the extra cash. If you’re currently saving zero for retirement, start by saving 1% of your income in your 401(k) at work. Then every six months, increase that contribution by another 1%. The increase is so small that you won’t even miss the money — and the best part is that in five years, you’ll be saving 10% of your income! Here are more ways to get started on your savings right now.

2. Only 66% reported saving at least some of their income.

This means that about one-third of Americans aren’t saving at all. Nothing.

SOLUTION: If you’re saving nothing, check out Clark’s easiest way for you to get started.

If you aren’t saving anything for emergencies or retirement, it’s critical to start putting away money for both immediately — and it doesn’t mean overhauling your entire life. Starting with baby steps will allow you to modify your budget so you never even miss that extra money. If you can’t seem to find the extra money in your budget to save, you just need to know where to look. If you can find ways to spend less and/or make more, then that’s money you can save. Here are some ways to get started:

​Read more: 12 types of savings accounts

3. Even fewer — 63% — have enough to cover an emergency.


About 63% of people said they have enough savings to pay for an unexpected expense like a car repair or visit to the doctor. That means in the case of an emergency, 37% of Americans would have to turn to costly alternatives — like credit cards — to cover the expense, which could end up causing some serious long-term financial damage.

SOLUTION: The best way to save for unexpected financial shocks is to have two separate emergency funds: a rainy day fund and an emergency fund.

  • A rainy day fund is money you might dip into every once in a while to cover an unexpected expense, like a medical bill or car repair. 
  • An emergency fund is a bigger, longer-term savings fund. This money should be able to cover at least three to six months worth of living expenses in case you can’t work for a period of time, for whatever reason.

Also, one important thing to remember about emergency savings is that the money should be easily accessible if you ever need it — like in a savings account. To help you prepare, here’s how to get started on your emergency savings.

4. Fewer people are saving enough to retire comfortably.

Only 52% (down from 55% the previous year) of non-retired adults said they were “saving enough for a retirement in which you will have a desirable standard of living.” 

But, according to the survey, ‘people who have specific savings goals are much more likely to have good savings habits.’ 

SOLUTION: This emphasizes the importance of having a plan and how automating your savings is the best way to help you stay on track.


Here are some ways to get your automated savings plan in place and keep it on the right track:

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