Survey Finds Many Americans Are Not Saving for the Long Term

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If you needed to come up with $2000 in 30 days to cover the costs of an emergency, could you do it? According to a new survey, 62 percent of Americans said yes. The survey, conducted by the FINRA Investor Education Foundation and shared by the Wall Street Journal, shows that Americans are now better about putting money aside for emergencies than they were seven years ago, but they're still not saving for retirement.

FINRA compared 27,000 responses they received in 2015 to those they gathered in 2009 and found that, overall, Americans have become more financially savvy (although certain demographics, like 18- to 34-year-olds and minorities, are still struggling to stay above water). More people in 2015 were able to cover expenses and pay bills without issue (48 percent versus 36 percent in 2009), and the percentage of people who had emergency "rainy day" funds set aside increased from 35 percent to 46 percent. But that still leaves more than half the country without a buffer.

However, the Wall Street Journal reports, only 40 percent of Americans say that they spend less than their income each month (this is down from 41 percent in 2012 and 42 percent in 2009). Why don't Americans have money to save? FINRA research director Gary Mottola tells the Wall Street Journal that student loans may have something to do with it, as 45 percent of those surveyed between the ages of 18 and 34 are still paying back what they borrowed.

The survey also found that those who are saving some money are not putting it toward retirement (58 percent of responders reported having retirement accounts). This lack of future planning reflects another one of the survey's findings: The majority of Americans don't know very much about personal finance. Only 37 percent of respondents were able to answer four or more questions correctly in a five-question financial literacy quiz—compared to 42 percent in 2009.

FINRA Chairman Richard Ketchum said that the research "underscores the critical need for innovative strategies to equip consumers with the tools and education required to effectively manage their financial lives." And furthermore, he hopes that "policymakers, researchers and advocates will use these findings to make more informed decisions about how to best reach underserved populations."

[h/t Wall Street Journal]