Americans Want to Save More Money. They Just Can't

While polling shows a desire to save, fewer Americans are actually putting money aside.

National Journal

More Americans than ever say that want to save money and not spend it. But Americans are finding it harder to save.

A Gallup Poll released Monday shows that 62 percent of Americans enjoy saving money, while just 34 percent say they prefer spending it. This poll alone shows a significant change in American consumer psychology since the Great Recession, when the gap between spenders and savers grew dramatically.

But that's not the whole story. There's a difference between the desires of Americans and the actions of Americans.

The average personal-savings rate for 2013 was the lowest it's been since 2007, falling to 4.5 percent, according to Commerce Department data. That number is low historically. Just take the 1970s (11.8 percent), the 1980s (9.3 percent), and the 1990s (6.7 percent).

So, while Americans say they want to save money, they're not actually doing so.

But it's not like these people are just spending haphazardly, driven by a consumer-based economy. They might not save as much as they can out of necessity.

As wage growth stagnates and the economy is slow to recover, there's less opportunity for Americans to save their money. Another Gallup survey from Friday shows that a majority of Americans couldn't go a few months without work before they hit significant financial hardship.

It seems that Americans want to save. They just can't.