2024 presents a mixed picture for Americans. Economic data show a rapidly improving economy, but many individuals remain deeply stressed, facing high levels of debt and wages that barely meet the cost of living. In this environment saving is more important than ever and more difficult than ever. .

How are Americans meeting this challenge, and are they succeeding? These savings statistics help to clarify the picture.

We’ll look at two types of savings.

  • Emergency savings are kept in reserve to meet immediate goals or cover unexpected expenses or job loss. They are typically kept in savings accounts or other accounts that allow easy access.
  • Retirement savings are intended for use after retirement and are usually invested in an IRA, 401(k), or brokerage account.

These savings types are equally important, but data on them are collected separately.

Essential Emergency Savings Data

Percentage of Households with No Emergency Savings
  1. 22% of households self-reported having no emergency savings at all[1]. That’s down from 23% last year.
  1. Older people typically have more emergency savings, as you’d expect. 48% of Baby Boomers (ages 60-78) can cover three months or more worth of expenses, while 42% of Generation X-ers (ages 44-59) and 41% of Millennials (ages 28-43) can do the same[1].
  1. The most recent data available from the Federal Reserve Board’s Survey of Consumer Finances found that the median savings balance of Americans under the age of 35 was just $5,400, while the average was $20,540. From ages 55 to 64, the median increased to $8,000 while the average rose to $72,520[2].

4. Education levels have a significant impact on savings rates. This is expected, as higher levels of education correlate strongly with higher incomes and greater saving capacity.

Highest Education Level CompletedAverage Savings Balance
No high school diploma$9,130
High school diploma$23,380
Some College$33,410
College degree$116,010

5. The Federal Reserve reports significant disparities in emergency savings among various racial and ethnic groups.

🤔 Average and Median: What’s the Difference?

What are averages and medians, and why are they so different?

The average is calculated by adding up the individual values and then dividing by the number of individual values. It can be skewed upwards by a small number of very large values.

The median is the mid-point value of the set, where half the values in the set are smaller and half are higher. It is less likely to be distorted by a few very large or small values.

% of Americans Who Would Not Be Able to Cover An Unexpected $1,000 bill
  1. Bankrate data from January 2024 revealed that 56% of Americans would be unable to cover an unexpected $1,000 bill with their savings at that time[2].
  1. USA Today reports that the average personal savings, not including investments, was $62,410[2]. The median personal savings were only $8000.
  1. The U.S. personal savings rate – or the percentage of disposable income consumers save – dipped to 3.7% in December 2023, according to the St. Louis Federal Reserve. That figure was 8.7% in December 2021, and 14% in December 2020[3].
Image of two people with three to six months' worth of savings and eight to twelve months' worth of savings
  1. Ted Rossman, senior industry analyst at Bankrate, recommends having three to six months’ worth of expenses stored for emergency savings. Personal savings expert Suze Orman says eight to 12 months’ worth is better.

Takeaway: Certain stats might be skewed in a more positive-sounding direction, but make no mistake about it: Too many Americans are woefully under-saved and under-prepared for a financial emergency.

Americans’ Dwindling Savings

  1. Personal savings rates soared during the COVID-19 pandemic, driven by government stimulus payments and restrictions on movement that made it difficult to spend. The personal savings rate soared from 8.7% in Q4 2019 to 26.4% in Q2 2020[5].
  2. In 2021 that trend reversed, with the personal savings rate dropping below the long-term trend. From that point to June 2023, $1.9 trillion of pandemic-era savings were drawn down, contributing to inflation by driving higher demand. The aggregate savings of the pandemic-era saving binge were fully drawn down by the end of 2023.
  3. In February of this year, only 16% of survey respondents said they had more in savings than before the COVID-19 pandemic. Even worse, 50% said they had less saved up than they did pre-pandemic[5].
    The stats were even more startling for lower-income U.S. households. Among them, only 9% said they had more in savings than they did before the pandemic, and 64% said they had less.
  1. Many Americans are dipping into their savings. A GOBankingRates study of 1,000 adults determined that 35.54% of respondents had tapped their savings as their purchasing power diminished due to the impact of inflation[6]. Not everyone tapped their savings equally. While 18% of study participants aged 55-64 had dipped into their savings in order to deal with high inflation, 52% of 18- to 24-year-olds did so.
Shape of a person that is sad due to inflation

Takeaway: Stimulus measures from the government can help in the short term, but ultimately, Americans must rely on their own proactive savings habits to get through financially challenging times.

Perceptions and Issues Among U.S. Savers

  1. A nationwide survey by Bankrate found that 57% of the respondents are uncomfortable with the amount they have in emergency savings. [1].
  1. Younger people expressed the highest degree of concern over their emergency savings levels. The level of comfort was 56% for Baby Boomers, 38% for Generation X-ers, and 37% for Millennials[1].
  1. The National Reverse Mortgage Lending Association reports that 81% of Americans say inflation is making it harder for them to meet financial goals. 56% report that they are saving a portion of each paycheck, but 44% dipped into their emergency savings to meet expenses in 2023.

Savings and Retirement Planning

How Many Americans Have Retirement Savings?
  1. Federal Reserve data indicate that 72% of American adults have some retirement savings, with 28% reporting that they had nothing saved for retirement.

Where Do Americans Keep Their Retirement Savings?

  1. Many Americans use tax-advantaged retirement savings plans, either employer-sponsored plans like a 401(k) or 403(b) or privately held Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs)[9].
How Much Have Americans Saved For Retirement?<br>
  1. In 2022 the average American household had $333,945 in retirement savings. Average values can be skewed upwards by a small number of very large values, so the median retirement value is a better guideline. The median retirement account value was $87,000, meaning 50% of households have less than that amount saved.

Median Retirement Savings by Age

4. Retirement savings vary widely with age: older workers will naturally have more savings than younger ones.

Do Americans Think They Have Enough Saved for Retirement?

5. Only 40% of Americans overall believe that their retirement savings are on track. This figure also varies with age.

AgePercent With Retirement SavingsPercent Who Feel Their Retirement Savings Are On Track
18-2962%30%
30-4475%39%
45-5984%45%
60+87%52%
Total Average75%40%
Source: Motley Fool

Saving is a critical part of financial stability. Without emergency savings, any unexpected event could force you to take on unwanted debt. Without retirement savings, you’ll have a very uncertain future once you’re beyond working age.

The figures above show that most Americans feel that they don’t have enough savings, contributing to an overall perception of financial insecurity. The good news is that you don’t have to be part of that group. With good financial habits, you can build your savings and become part of the minority that is confident in their financial future!

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