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Saving is Anti-American

This article was written by in Saving. 7 comments.

A survey released by ACNielsen today has determined again that Americans are the world’s worst savers (among developed countries).

Nearly a quarter (22 percent) of Americans have no money left once they’ve paid for their essential living expenses and spent their discretionary dollars. That puts the United States at the top of a list of 42 (countries for saving futility. The Unites States is neck and neck with Portugal.

I often complain about having no spending money, but in reality, I’m socking away that would-be excess in the form of 401(k), Roth IRA, and savings account contributions. I get frustrated that I’m not saving enough, but it sounds like I’m doing better than at least 22 percent of the country.

The good news according to the report is Americans have improved from the last survey six months ago. We are saving and concentrating on paying down debt more.

Published or updated January 24, 2006. If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the RSS feed or receive daily emails. Follow @ConsumerismComm on Twitter and visit our Facebook page for more updates.

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About the author

Luke Landes is the founder of Consumerism Commentary. He has been blogging and writing for the internet since 1995 and has been building online communities since 1991. Find out more about Luke Landes and follow him on Twitter. View all articles by .

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar samerwriter

It’s not entirely clear from the article how they account for dollars being used for debt reduction vs. extra cash. I.e. paying down debt could be a use for discretionary dollars.

If paying down debt counts as having money left, I wonder if the increased credit card minimum payments have something to do with this.

I deal with money the same way you do — my wife claims I create an “environment of artificial scarcity”. We stash as much as possible into savings before we ever see our paychecks, so the amount of money we see only leaves a little extra after bills are paid. We always feel like we’re short on cash, but that’s because we save about 50% of our gross income before we see any of it.

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avatar Will Kirby

First off, if the above poster is saving 50% of their income – i’m VERY impressed! That’s FANTASTIC!!!

I’m still in law school so my income is insanely low. Right now it’s enough to get by and save a couple hundred here or there. I’m totally focused on saving right now – even though i’m not putting anywhere near my Roth IRA max. I’m just letting compound interest magnify the little that I do put in today.

I’d love to save up for that big screen TV, but in the end that TV will just goto the junk yard. That money, if invested will go a lot further!

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avatar Luke Landes

But Will, you can’t watch the Big Game or Star Wars Episode III on a stock certificate. :-)

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avatar samerwriter

RS: I agree — I also struggle with this balance –with a very large caveat.

Using money to increase our present-day happiness makes a lot of sense to me. But it turns out that most of the things we want and spend money on, really don’t increase happiness at all.

Everyone seems to have a friend who always has the latest cellphone or ipod — I have a couple such friends. The fact that they’re on a constant upgrade cycle tells me that despite dropping hundreds of dollars on these gadgets they really aren’t happy with them. What _does_ make them happy is thinking that they have the latest and greatest, but unfortunately there is always something later and greater that they’ll have to buy.

On the other hand if, being fully aware of the above problem, I decide to splurge on something (we’re building a home theater in our basement, for example), I sincerely hope that I can avoid feeling guilty about spending the money.

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avatar RS

There has to be a balance. There is no point in saving all of your money for retirement and not getting any enjoyment out of it today. This is something that I struggle with all the time…on one hand, I am still young and making good money that I would like to spend on vacations, TVs, Xbox games, and other cool gadgets. Then on the other hand, I know that I need to save for retirement…but who knows what could happen in the next 30 years or so. I may not even be around. As I said, I struggle with this problem…I have no idea what the correct balance is. I guess it is just a plus that I am saving for retirement. Could I do more? Sure, but then I wouldn’t be enjoying my 54 inch HD TV that I love.

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avatar real people, real finances

there were also some negatives in the report like only 11% who did have extra money were putting away money toward retirement. It’s kind of funny when Americans come out last but everyone is happy because “Americans are improving”

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avatar Mike

I find balance relatively easy to achieve. I do like samerwriter and stash away half before I ever see it. But then, and this is where balance comes in, I completely allow myself permission to spend the rest of it on any frivolous thing I want. (Most months, at least 1/5 of the 1/2 goes to some charity or another that catches my eye, and always about 1/5 of the 1/2 goes to rent, so certainly not the full half goes for “frivolous” things, but you get my point).

It’s hard to achieve a better “balance” than 50-50… almost by definition, I’d say.

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