The latest survey shows that there is greater interest in personal savings than in saving effort.

Key measures of Americas’ personal savings recorded declines during the past quarter, according to new research.

Scores on the second America Saves Personal Savings Index (PSI) dipped, from September 2013 to January 2014, on all three PSI measures – interest in personal saving (-9 percent), saving effort made (-6 percent), and perceived effectiveness of saving (-3 percent).

“Both recovery from the post-holiday financial hangover and continued increases in asset values appear to explain [many] of the changes,” noted Stephen Brobeck, executive director of the Consumer Federation of America and a founder of America Saves. “The largest overall declines were experienced by lower-income Americans, who face the greatest challenge paying for holiday-related expenses, while actual increases in saving effectiveness were seen by upper-income Americans, who were the greatest beneficiaries of rising stock and housing prices,” he added.

The PSI is based on a survey of more than 1,000 representative adult Americans who were asked to rate their own savings interest, effort, and effectiveness on a 10-point scale.  The latest survey was conducted Jan. 16-19, 2014 on landlines and cell phones by ORC International. The margin of error is plus or minus 3 percentage points.

The latest survey shows, as does the September 2013 survey, that there is greater interest in personal savings (65 percent) than in saving effort (58 percent) and in perceived saving effectiveness (56 percent).  But the research also shows a decline in scores, over the past four months, in this interest (71 percent to 65 percent), effort (62 percent to 58 percent), and effectiveness (58 percent to 56 percent).

The survey collected data on a variety of demographic factors including gender, age, ethnicity and education, but found that the most influential factor was income. Lower-income households — the one-quarter with incomes below $25,000 — reported significant declines in interest (65 percent to 52 percent), effort (52 percent to 45 percent), and effectiveness (46 percent to 40 percent) in the past four months. 

“We attribute these declines to the challenge, faced by households with little or no discretionary spending, recovering from holiday spending demands,” said Brobeck. “These families tend to be preoccupied with paying bills and debts, not building savings,” he added.

In contrast, upper-income households reported greater saving effectiveness, rising to 66 percent from 64 percent for those with incomes between $75,000 and $100,000, and 69 percent to 70 percent for those with incomes of more than $100,000. 

“For these families, increasing wealth from rising stock and housing prices appears to have offset any concerns about their holiday spending,” says  Brobeck.