September 21 2010|01.55 PM UTC

Stan Reybern

How Much Do Americans Save

Category: SR, SavingsTags: , ,

How much money does the average American have in their savings account, and how does that compare against other nations? How much do we put away each month, and is that better or worse than a decade ago?  If questions like these keeps you up at night, then you’re in luck as our latest infographics examine the American savings attitude.

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{ 42 comments… read them below or add one }

Peter Florida September 22, 2010 at 2:37 am

This is a great analysis of our savings situation. Amazing how much less we save than other countries. Changing our perceptions is important to where we don’t need to have what others have like the Jones example.


mchamp September 22, 2010 at 8:01 am

Being in the 25% tax bracket does not mean that all $50,000 is taxed at 25%, only the part in that bracket… The first ~$8,000 is taxed at 10% and the next ~$26,000 is only taxed at 15%, so the amount that goes to the government in taxes is considerably less. Unless of course you add back in Social Security, SDI, Medicare, and the like. In any case, the tax part is misleading.


BillShrink Guy September 22, 2010 at 1:00 pm

Definitely. Obviously thats not how federal marginal tax rate works. Not sure how I missed that, we’ll have it fixed asap.


ski September 23, 2010 at 6:23 am

Also, I don’t think it’s correct to add back the tax refund amount. The refund is just what you’ve overpaid. Whatever you owe calculated in the second step of your diagram is what you owe. You’re not making any money on the refund.


Anonymous September 22, 2010 at 10:07 am

I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a naive interpretation of income taxes. Of course, the net result is that you have understated the net income after taxes thereby also understating how much people actually spend. I.E., I believe the end result is “close enough”.


Matt September 22, 2010 at 11:47 am

For god’s sake, the tax brackets are MARGINAL, you only pay 25% on income in that bracket, not all your income!!

A single person earning $50k would fall in the 25% marginal bracket, paying about $8681 in federal income tax, which is only 17.4% of their total income in tax.

A FAMILY (married filing jointly) earning $50k (infographic says $50k is median household income, so better comparison), only falls in the 15% tax bracket, and would pay $6663 in federal income tax. As a percentage of total income that’s only 13.3%!


Tom February 23, 2012 at 3:14 pm

Toss in 7.5% FICA tax and 5-10% state income tax. I don’t think they thought this deep, but I guess you could assume property taxes are included in the cost of transportation and housing. Sales tax is included in “spending”. Still, it is very flawed. I give this article no credibility for the other percentages they quoted.


Chris September 22, 2010 at 11:00 am

With unemployment at 9.6%, the increasing costs of living/health care, and decreasing wages, you need to understand that many people are not saving because it is nearly impossible. I find it sad that you’ve decided to attack people while they are already on the ground.

This is a post I wrote in response to “Why have Americans failed to save enough money for retirement?” on Y!A:

It’s hard to save when working Americans live paycheck to paycheck, often by no fault of their own. From 2001-07, 2/3 of income growth went to the top 1%. Since our country began using trickle-down economics (Reagan), the top 10% wealthiest Americans began acquiring more and more of the economic growth. By the end of Bush’s presidency, the top 10% took nearly 50% of the income share. This was, by far, the greatest redistribution of wealth in our nation’s history. Stolen from the working people.

Let’s also keep in mind that over 60% of personal bankruptcies are a direct result of medical bills, not to mention the rising cost of living, and decreasing wages. It’s very easy for you to sit on your throne and say that these people are irresponsible, but that claim is unsubstantiated. You haven’t lived a day in their shoes, nor do you have statistics or any other data to back up this claim.

EDIT: To add more detail to the situation, let’s look at some numbers. Between 2002-07, the average household in the bottom 90%, that’s the majority of Americans, saw a $1,206 or 3.9% increase in income on average. The average 0.1% (you are reading this correctly) saw a $3,455,384 or 94.1% increase in income on average. Why does the top 0.1% get a 94.1% raise, while the rest of us suffer? Who is the cause of this inequality? It certainly isn’t the government. This is the PRIVATE sector that so many on the right try to protect. They are destroying our way of life.


brent February 15, 2012 at 6:21 pm

move to china ya commie, see how you like it there


Saver April 28, 2012 at 5:24 pm

So its either China or growing, corrosive inequality?


YTKinWI September 22, 2010 at 1:16 pm

It is not all that surprising that we have one of the lower consumer/citizen savings rate. The saving consumer/citizen is now being held responsible for the lack of economic recovery because “we are not spending enough.” Our economic system appears to be built upon the premise that everyone must spend everything.


Paul September 22, 2010 at 1:45 pm

You missed the #1 reason americans don’t save: Artificially low interest rates and tax disincentives

Who would save money when all you can get is 3% APR minus taxes, while inflation is reaching roughly 8%?
At the same time, people can get 5% on a car, house or student loan, and also tax deduct it, don’t they have an incentive to borrow as much money as they can? especially since they will pay it back with tomorrows dollars that are depreciating faster than the interest on the loan.

If the FED stopped printing money (creating inflation), and use it to keep interest rates unnaturally low, things would be different. If it stopped printing money, the lack of savers would be evident and would be felt in the market. Banks would be forced to raise interest rates in order to attract savers instead of borrowing money for nothing at the FED. The higher interest rates would provide an incentive for people to save, and would discourage borrowing.

This is tough medicine, and would taste bad in the short term. A lot of people would go bankrupt during this process. People in power look at this as political suicide, so they keep pouring alcohol in the punch, hopping things won’t fall apart by the next elections.

The reasons you mention are just symptoms. The root cause is that the conditions put on by government and their inflation machine (printing press) punish anyone that wants to do the right thing and reward those who spend their head off. Take the same people, put them in an environment where debt is punished, and saving is rewarded (high interest rates), and will see them change their attitude gradually.


Wayne September 22, 2010 at 5:06 pm

Well said and right on!


Anonymous September 22, 2010 at 5:45 pm

If the FED stopped printing money, the money supply would freeze. The value of the US dollar would SKY ROCKET and our exports would dry up OVERNIGHT. While I agree that the FED should keep a close eye on inflation; core inflation hasn’t risen dramatically recently. The Fed has NUMEROUS ways to control inflation besides shutting off the printing presses.


Tim September 22, 2010 at 1:50 pm

What about state taxes?


PsyberS September 22, 2010 at 9:19 pm

Depending on where you live this can be nothing (TX) to a lot (OR). You should at least factor in the average rate.


DPA September 22, 2010 at 5:32 pm

finger –> nose


Jim September 22, 2010 at 6:18 pm

Reasons why Americans don’t save is just a bunch of crap excuses, everyone one else in the world can claim them as well

Why didn’t the writer of this factor in the health insurance rates? That would really show the disparity between countries.


Nishit September 22, 2010 at 10:12 pm

This all sounds so true when you analyse the problems USA has landed itself into. First banks offer high credit limits, and low interest rates without doing any proper checks. Then when people don’t pay, they suffer. Banks don’t get their money, and consumers are now used to high lifestyles and cannot live without so many things.

This requires radical changes in the policies instead of artificially keeping the interest rates low.


Birder September 23, 2010 at 4:37 am

If it were not for 401k accounts, that 6% figure would be about 0%


worldtraveler September 23, 2010 at 12:15 pm

interesting article.

don’t forget about the differences in taxes between europeans and americans. these tax dollars lead them to cheaper, better medical care and free / cheap education, etc.

also, be careful around using savings % for disposable income and taxes greatly distorts these numbers.


Marshall Middle September 23, 2010 at 4:04 pm

Excellent Infographic. Interesting to see the points in time where we were saving the most and least. America is a consumer nation, buy, buy, buy, throw out the older model (that still works perfectly well) and get the newest game in town


ddd September 23, 2010 at 7:09 pm

As someone who has to talk on the phone with broke Americans 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, I’d have to say that #1 and #5 are huge factors that most Americans need to improve on. I’m not a certified financial planner, but I speak with people who make between $1500 and $2500 on a bi-weekly basis, and do not have a single dime saved. Many of these people lease vehicles, rent their apartment or house, and have credit card debt. The vast majority of the people I speak with have difficulty living within their means, and they could simply spend less.


Genevieve September 23, 2010 at 11:20 pm


I used to spend money without a care in the world but after learning the concept of delayed gratification, my paradigm shifted. It wasn’t easy, resisting the temptation to spend, but after weeks of practice, it’s almost like second nature. Like a wise person once said, “Every dollar spent is a dollar down the drain. But every dollar you put into investments will grow more dollars for you”.

The logic is simple, sow now, reap later.

If you know the power of compounded interest, you will be wise enough to ‘save’ up. Not in the bank of course (like what Paul says, inflation will erode your money), invest the money wisely!

As of now, I am working on building multiple streams of passive income so that in 5 years time, I’ll be financially free. So far, I’ve accumulated 3 properties and have other investments such as stocks & commodities that will help me generate passive income.

& for the critics out there who don’t believe it can be done, wait 5 years. & 5 years down the road, you may compare your results with mine and at that moment you can then choose to continue complaining and giving yourself reasons for why you can’t be rich OR change your mindset and LEARN from people who are more successful than you. It is your choice and I quote Anthony Robbins here, “It is in the moment of your decision that your destiny is being shaped!”

If you’ll like to find out more, feel free to leave a comment on my blog & I’ll do my best to answer your questions.

Till then, it is my wish that many of you will learn & be able to generate MASSIVE PASSIVE INCOME for yourselves. Financial freedom is achievable & I’d like to show you it can be done by achieving it for myself :)


William September 24, 2010 at 11:24 am

This is a pretty dismal view of US culture, although I fully expected it to be this bad. A very interesting infographic would be one that compares this to other countries, specifically those that have been weathering the depression well.

I fully believe that a family could improve its situation drastically if they were to adopt more frugal spending habits, specifically in the areas of food (eating out / buying overpriced pre-processed groceries) and shopping.


JIMBO September 27, 2010 at 1:08 pm

Hi im Jimbo and this is true. I never want to go to the bank and get a reciept of my account because the one time I did it said my money was in the negatives. I dont know what to do so I drove my car to Mexico to lay low for awhile.


Sid September 27, 2010 at 2:01 pm

This whole story is a joke, comparing the US to Europe is apples and oranges, first of all the Europeans aren’t paying sky high insurance rates ie: auto, health, they also don’t pay property taxes, social security taxes, they aren’t taxed on so called “sin taxes”, they aren’t taxed on bottled water, etc. etc.etc.


mark September 28, 2010 at 5:18 am

Well, that isn’t correct. Car insurance is less but they still pay it, VAT is up to 20% on most purchases (with the notable exception of food). In the UK at least they all pay property tax (otherwise known as the “rates”). Petrol is much more expensive and gas and electricity are about the same. So I agree that they may get more perceived value from their taxes but certainly they are taxed as much if not more than we are.


Virginie October 17, 2010 at 11:33 am

I’m just jealous, American people, you earn like twice what a European citizen earn each year. :-o Average income in Belgium and even in France is around 25,000/year. When we work more to get more money, we don’t get more money, we get days off, sigh ! :(


Anonymous December 9, 2010 at 9:09 pm

I’d prefer days off! Money isn’t anything if you can’t go and enjoy life!!


Kaylee February 3, 2011 at 1:56 am

Americans and their crap excuses for not saving. People in Europe and Asia make considerably less (on average) yet they save more.


Barry February 13, 2011 at 8:20 pm

As an American married to a European, I’ve had the good fortune to travel to Austria a dozen or so times the past 15 years. I won’t get into a “whose country is better” debate (for the record, we have better steak, they have better beer), but I will pass along what I feel is their secret to greater financial freedom than what we enjoy here; Europeans USE LESS CREDIT AND EVEN PAY CASH FOR BIG TICKET ITEMS, such as furniture and cars. Their thinking is, if you don’t have the money, you can’t really afford it. And remember, being able to buy something, and truly being able to afford it, are a vast distance apart. If my inlaws don’t have the cash for a new washing machine, they go to the laundrymat or a neighbors house, until they’ve saved up for one. No credit, no finance charges, no stress. Sure, it requires discipline and fortitude, but let me tell you, they seem just as happy, and are enjoying life, as much as anyone i know over here. Maybe we could all learn a good lesson from them.


Anna February 17, 2011 at 10:16 am

I live in the US and I do think it’s just full of crap that people try to find excuses as to why they can’t save. Stop using credit cards, stop borrowing money, stop buying things and try to pay 12months later, but really can’t and still hoping you’ll be able to, cus YOU WON”T!! #4 is so right on. People all try to feel better about their purchases by saying that they’ll pay with the next paycheck, but the next paycheck was meant for something else like…. rent. Denial!!


Todd February 19, 2011 at 9:34 am

Like some others have previously said, all the excuses why Americans can’t save is BS! America is the wealthiest country on earth, period. If you live in the U.S. there is a very good chance you are wealthy. Americans can’t take responsibility for their own financial incompetence. They blame the credit card companies, the mortgage companies, the government. That is why they will always be in financial straits. I grew up in a single parent home with 6 siblings. I was poor. After I received my engineering degree I earned a respectful income but was a fool with my money. I then moved to South America and realized I didn’t need all the garbage I had to be happy and that I was not as poor as I thought while growing up. If you want to see people struggling go to South America, Africa or Southeast Asia. Americans are a bunch of whiners. If you don’t save it is probably your own fault.


Karthick July 27, 2011 at 9:58 am

I am a new immigrant into US and the information on this page is what exactly looking for. Great figures so simply explained and it’s amazing to know that americans on average only able to save only 6% where as people like me from India able to save up to 40-50% of our disposable income!


Ronald A August 2, 2011 at 6:28 am

Historically Canadians have been saving at a higher rate than Americans, but since 2009 the level of personal savings has decreased substancially, Canadian government reports now put the Canadian saving rate at a level below that of the US.

How did this happen? Government policy to stimulate the economy has meant that savings earn little or no interest in the bank. A rising Canadian dollar has made consumer goods relatively inexpensive when compared to prices just a few years ago. There have been household tax credits of up to $10,000.00 per household for home renovations along with low interest rates for home purchases.

Banks and credit companies have been falling over themselves to get a larger share of the housing market and house prices have gone up over 30% since 2009. The Bank of Canada and many leading Canadian economists have stated that house prices are due to fall by as much as 25% over the next 2 years.

With the present low level of savings many Canadian may face serious financial problems, similiar to the US.


Sim Con August 12, 2011 at 8:47 am

This savings problem is mirrored in the UK. Luckily I was raised to be frugally-aware by my immigrant parents, and I’ve retained those habits in most everything I do (well…apart from my dedication to all things Apple ::).

This may a gross over-generalization, but I find that those with parents born in UK are much more financially ostentatious. Many of my “native” friends (all with similar incomes), they would not think twice of spending two hundred pounds a month on alcohol, for example.


savings account August 24, 2011 at 1:01 pm

I enjoyed reading your posts! Keep up the awesome work!


Jessica May 19, 2012 at 3:52 am

If you live in America you ARE rich. We ALL have the money to provide our basic nessessities. Most people in other countries do not.

I think it is funny the people complaining they are ‘poor’ because of their car insurance or loans. Only 7% of the world has a car.

You say people don’t have enough money left to save but they have cable, internet, dvr, iphones, remodeling their house, buying a new car every few years, eating out, NEW clothes, NEW shoes, hair done, etc.


YC August 25, 2012 at 3:37 pm

The only way you can save more money is you do have substaintial amount to save. Otherwise, saving could not become an habit and soon quality of life falls apart.


Lucy September 10, 2012 at 1:17 am

I believe it to be very patronizing and very inaccurate to say that Americans aren’t saving because of the fast lifestyle or trying to have the newest, latest things (as you call it, Keeping Up With the Joneses). It’s just so grossly inaccurate and untrue to pass this value of judgment on others when in reality, people aren’t saving because they simply do not have any left over. While pay rates are stagnant, the cost of living is rising more and more each year. The truth is fast food costs about as much as going to the store (or even less), most people don’t have a boat but to buy a car, for example, means you will pay more if you make less or don’t have fantastic credit. Doctors and dentist expenses for under or unissured are astronomical, and can send a family into debt for years. Gas can cost anywhere from $35 to $56 a week. Student loans simply do not ensure a payload that will offset their monthly costs than what school used to provide and guarantee.

The truth is the cost of living meagerly has increased and our earnings have not. How can anyone save when they can’t even afford a parking ticket? Asking someone to not spend $5 at McDonalds is ridiculous, unrealistic, and unfair.

I agree with Chris because it seems like others are unaware of the reality. People aren’t spending frivolously as you imply, they’re spending how they should be and have nothing left over and no means to get more.

To Jessica: To say that living in American makes you rich no matter your payscale is ridiculous ignorant, and inaccurate. There is such a thing as “relative poverty” and it is very real. (For example, if you do not have a car in America, you do not have access to many jobs, as many require reliable transportation and public transportation is NOT always available. If you do not have a job, you cannot pay bills and thus, can be homeless in a matter of months) Those sentiments only apply if you plan on moving to another country with your “american” money. Most people in America you are speaking of do not have the means to move to another country and will remain poor or institutionally impoverished for the inability to have the necessities in the society they live in. You are also lumping a large amount of people together in your complaints about where people spend their money. For example, it is no longer accurate to say that internet is an excess. Most jobs require 24/7 internet access and emails for company/employee communication. Cable (which often includes internet)is an expense many people who do not go out every weekend have in order to have some form of enjoyment in their lives; eating out is now COMPARABLE to buying groceries because of rising food costs, buying a new car every few years is something I have NEVER heard of besides with the well-off people who know how to run the system. Why is it so hard for people to accept that people are simply falling victim to low wages and high costs of living?


Wyatt October 26, 2012 at 9:03 am

Want more money. Work more. It’s easy. Everyone is just making excuses above. Saving money is easy as long as your not weak-minded. I have never made over 30k until this year and I save plenty of money due to a discipline budget and self control. I feel bad for no one in debt or who can’t save because it’s your own fault that you don’t have the discipline or work ethic to get ahead and stay ahead. Quit making excuses and go find a second jobs. Lazy cry babies.


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