Money

Americans say they prefer saving to spending—but few actually follow through

Despite the fact that nationwide credit card debt tops $1 trillion, the majority of Americans consider themselves "savers," rather than "spenders."

That comes from a new report by Gallup, which found that 59 percent of Americans describe themselves as people who enjoy saving money rather than spending it. 38 percent of Americans consider themselves the opposite.

Gallup reports that this trend toward savings began around 2007, noting that in the years before the recession, the split between how Americans describe themselves was close to even.

A shopper carries his bags along Lincoln Road Mall in Miami, Beach Florida.
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A shopper carries his bags along Lincoln Road Mall in Miami, Beach Florida.

The breakdown of people who report reducing their monthly spending — versus those whose spending stayed the same or increased — is closer to that even split. While 36 percent report that they have been spending less money in recent months, 30 percent report spending more, and 34 percent say their spending habits haven't changed.

"It is clear from these trends that Americans like to view themselves as people who focus on saving and watching their spending closely," Gallup reports. "Tellingly, even among the smaller group who admit they are spending more in recent months, a strong majority claim this is temporary — not their normal behavior."

Unfortunately, Americans aren't practicing what they preach.

According to a 2016 GOBankingRates survey, 69 percent of Americans have less than $1,000 in their savings accounts. Another 34 percent have no savings at all.

The outlook for retirement savings is just as bleak. The average American family has just $95,776 put away for retirement, according to data from the Economic Policy Institute. And nearly half of all Americans have no retirement savings at all.

How much should Americans be saving?

Most financial advisors typically recommend stashing three-to-six months' worth of living expenses in an emergency fund, which can cover everything from an unexpected hospital visit to an out-of-the-blue bout of unemployment.

On top of that, financial experts recommend contributing at least 10 percent of your income to a tax-advantaged retirement account such as a 401(k), traditional IRA, Roth IRA or myRA.

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