How much do you have socked away in savings for unexpected emergencies or large purchases such as a vacation or car? If you're like most Americans, the answer is: not enough. A recent survey of more than 7,000 Americans by the personal finance site GOBankingRates found that most Americans have less than $1,000 in savings. More than a third of respondents said they had no savings at all.

And savings rates are trending in the wrong direction. In the same survey a year ago, 62 percent of respondents said they had $1,000 in savings or less. This year, that number was 69 percent.

Here's a closer look at how our non-savings breaks down:

1. The poor have real trouble saving. But the rich aren't saving much either.

Unsurprisingly, the lower your income, the less likely you are to have anything saved. Among those who make less than $25,000 a year, 73 percent have less than $1,000 in savings. But even those making solid incomes still aren't saving much. Of respondents making $75,000 to $99,999 a year, 62 percent still have less than $1,000 in savings. And 44 percent of Americans making $100,000 to $149,999 have less than $1,000 saved, while 60 percent of those in that income bracket have less than $5,000 in savings. Even among those fortunate enough to make $150,000 or more a year, 29 percent have less than $1,000 saved.

2. Young people don't save a lot. But neither does anyone else.

Again, it should surprise no one that 18-to-24-year-olds had the lowest savings rate, with 72 percent reporting less than $1,000 in savings. But their parents, grandparents, and older siblings aren't doing much better. About 69 percent of respondents aged 35 to 64 also had less than $1,000 saved. Disturbingly, among senior citizens aged 65 and older, 62 percent had less than $1,000 in savings. I'm hoping they have more socked away in retirement accounts--although research shows that Americans are bad at saving for retirement as well.

3. Women save less than men.

Are some women still clinging to the idea that men will care for their future financial needs? The survey results seem to suggest that they are. A disturbing 42 percent of women have no savings at all, while only 28 percent of men have none. And 18 percent of men but only 10 percent of women have more than $10,000 in savings. This is a bit surprising in a society where female breadwinners are increasingly the norm. But the persistent pay gap may provide some explanation: Women are still paid about 79 cents for every dollar paid to men.

Why are Americans so bad at saving? There are a number of theories: An overabundance of easy credit, the fact that so many of us pour so much money into real estate, and a culture driven by conspicuous consumption all may be to blame. The crushing expense of a college education and student loan debt could be part of the problem as well. But whatever the reason, we have to do better. If we find ourselves in desperate trouble over an unexpected expense, we'll have no one to blame but ourselves.

Published on: Oct 30, 2016
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