3 Ways Americans Are Getting Better at Managing Their Money
We are used to hearing all kinds of terrible sky-is-falling news about how regular Americans are getting into debt, failing to plan for the future, and generally falling down on the job of managing their money. But the media rarely reports on the good financial behavior exhibited by Americans, even when there is plenty of great news to cheer about.
So before we all assume that Americans are clueless about financial matters, consider the following money skills that we are excelling at:
76 percent of Americans have money set aside for an emergency
You may recall the grim reports just before the 2008 crash that showed Americans had the lowest personal savings rate since the Great Depression. According to The New York Times, as of 2006 the savings rate for the year "was a negative 1 percent, meaning that not only did people spend all the money they earned but they also dipped into savings or increased borrowing to pay for purchases."
Americans have since learned their lesson about being ready for an emergency. Bankrate's June Financial Security Index survey found that a full 76 percent of American adults have some money set aside for an emergency like a layoff or a huge medical bill. In addition, 31 percent have built enough of a savings cushion to handle six months of unemployment.
And rather than having negative savings, the Bureau of Economic Analysis has found that the personal savings rate of Americans has gone from negative 1 percent up to 5.5 percent as of November 2016. That means that for every $100 Americans are earning, they are putting aside $5.50 toward savings.
Not only is this higher savings rate great news for the individual households that may need to rely on their emergency funds in a financial crisis, but the economy as a whole also does better when citizens have savings to fall back on. That's because private savings today mean less government expenditure on social safety net programs tomorrow — and citizens who save will ultimately have money available to invest since they will not be stuck in a paycheck-to-paycheck cycle. (See also: 11 Ways Life Is Amazing With an Emergency Fund)
Manage your savings rate better
Whether you are among the top savers or are just starting your savings journey, remember that even increasing your savings rate by 1 percent now can make a big difference in your emergency fund or retirement account. Just remember to revisit that savings rate quarterly or twice a year to make sure you're maximizing the money you can set aside.
59 percent of Americans enjoy saving money
Generally, when you think of enjoying your money, you might imagine the pleasure you get from spending hard-earned dollars on something you love. However, more Americans claim that they derive more enjoyment from saving their money than they do from spending it, according to research by Gallup. As of May 2017, 59 percent of Americans claim to enjoy saving more than spending, while only 38 percent claim to enjoy spending more than building up their savings accounts.
Gallup reports that "in the years before the recession, Americans were close to evenly split in how they described themselves." The economic downturn helped many Americans learn to love the joys of saving money.
Improve your own outlook on savings
It can be difficult to find the fun in saving money if you're a natural spender. However, you can switch your viewpoint on saving money if you can find a way to make a game of your savings. For instance, you could challenge a friend to a save-off, motivate yourself with a savings goal thermometer, or even start saving all your $5 bills. Once you start seeing savings as a fun challenge, you'll be much more motivated to increase your savings. (See also: 5 Savings Tricks You Haven't Tried Yet)
65 percent of American consumers research products before they make a purchase
Americans are no longer happy to simply buy products without doing research. According to Retail Dive's 2017 Consumer Survey, 65 percent of consumers choose to do research on the products they want online before going shopping in brick-and-mortar stores. In addition, 41 percent of Americans practice showrooming, according to an Accenture survey — that is, examining merchandise at a nearby retail store and then shopping for it online to find the lowest price. Both of these savvy consumer behaviors can save Americans money by helping them find the best product at the best price.
Some of this behavior is due to changes in technology. Even as little as 15 years ago, it would have been much more difficult for consumers to apprise themselves of all the product options and price ranges available, and the convenience of purchasing the first product examined overrode the price savings before the smartphone era. However, with the rise in smartphone usage, consumers can now educate themselves on the best-reviewed and lowest-priced options available.
Improve your use of technology and information
Technology can be a double-edged sword. While your smartphone makes it possible to research prices offered by other retailers, it also makes it easy and convenient to buy items you don't need with the click of a button. Make sure you are a savvy consumer by committing to do research before you make a purchase, and to take a timeout before you click Buy Now. Those two habits will help you save money and only get the products that will actually add to your life.
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