Report

Feeling Guilty: Americans Say They Aren't Saving Enough

  • May 14, 2008
  • By Richard Morin

Most Americans say they're not saving as much as they should -- but they're apparently not worried enough to do much about it, according to federal economic data and a recent survey by the Pew Research Center's Social & Demographic Trends project.

Three out of every four Americans say they aren't saving enough, according to the telephone survey of 2,413 adults, conducted from Jan. 24 through Feb. 19, 2008. What's more, this "savings shortfall" is acknowledged by majorities of the rich and poor, male and female, black and white, as well as by the preponderance of those in virtually every other key demographic group.

While uneasiness about savings is broadly felt, these feelings apparently don't run deeply enough to motivate action: Americans now save, on average, less than 1% of their incomes, and the savings rate has been in almost continuous decline for more than two decades. Other ways of measuring savings and wealth accumulation tell a somewhat less dramatic story, but most economists agree that Americans aren't saving enough and haven't been for years.

Even the most privileged Americans say they're not saving enough, the survey found. Nearly seven-in-ten adults who identify themselves as upper or upper-middle class say they aren't saving enough, a belief shared by only slightly larger proportions of middle class (75%) and lower class Americans (82%).

A similar relationship is seen between income levels and savings anxiety. Predictably, the most affluent are the least concerned about the amount they save. But what is striking in the survey is the pervasiveness of the self-acknowledged savings deficit at every income level from the relatively well-to-do to the lowest income stratum.

Read the full report Feeling Guilty: Americans Say They Aren't Saving Enough on the Pew Research Center Web site.