American adults have an average of $65,900 in their personal savings, a 10% increase from the $59,737 average reported in 2019, according to new research released Tuesday by Northwestern Mutual.
That amount specifically excludes funds earmarked for retirement.
Northwestern Mutual noted that this aligns with U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis data, showing that the savings rate — the portion of monthly income that households are saving — hit a record 33.7% in April, and has hovered around 20% since then. Before the pandemic, the savings rate was approximately 7.5%.
The new study found that 37% of study participants felt financially secure, putting themselves between eight and 10 on a 10-point scale, compared with 16% who put themselves at the insecure end of the scale, between one and three.
However, that was seven percentage points below pre-pandemic levels. Moreover, a substantial minority of respondents appeared to be financially vulnerable, with 9% reporting no personal savings at all and 36% saying they did now know how much they had saved.
“People are dealing with wide and varying circumstances as a result of the pandemic, and many are taking action to increase what they can save,” Christian Mitchell, chief customer officer at Northwestern Mutual, said in a statement. “For those who can, adding to their emergency funds may help mitigate some of the widespread feelings of financial anxiety that so many Americans are confronting.”
The 2020 study, part of a research series conducted by The Harris Poll, included 2,702 American adults who participated in an online survey between June 26 and July 10.
Preparing for the Future
Although savings were up overall, survey participants expressed significant concerns about what could take place over the coming months and years, and how it might affect their finances.
Seventy-nine percent cited rising health care costs, reporting feeling some level of anxiety.
They also had these reasons for feeling financially anxious:
- Unplanned health emergency – 77%
- Unplanned financial emergency – 77%
- Their income – 76%
- Inability to afford health care – 68%
- Level of debt – 60%
Thirty-one percent of respondents reported that financial anxiety made them feel depressed at least once a month. Twenty-one percent said it affected their relationship with a partner or spouse at least once a month, and 19% said it had a monthly effect on their job performance.
“Stress can be paralyzing especially if it’s coupled with uncertainty about what action steps can be taken,” Mitchell said. “The key is to gain control, get perspective, and take action.”
Mitchell offered several suggestions for those feeling anxious about their financial futures.
Review spending habits to understand where money is flowing. Forty-nine percent of adults in the study said they were unclear on exactly how much they could afford to spend now and how much they should be saving for later.
As a result, 27% said they hold back on spending, while 22% said they just spend and hope they have saved enough.
Refine or create a budget, identifying critical expenses and factoring in both near-term and long-term obligations.
The research showed 20% of respondents said they thought about or actively planned their finances only on a week-to-week or day-to-day basis.
Consider seeking outside advice. Contrary to some people’s notion that professional help is only for the wealthy or an unnecessary expense, a financial professional can help provide more clarity and get people back on track if they have drifted or lost their way.
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