Recession still causing personal finance headaches

By Gregory Karp
Posted Feb. 22 at 3:08 p.m.

The Great Recession might be officially over, but that’s not helping Americans save money, and they’re growing increasingly worried about it, according to survey results released Tuesday.

The portion of people “very concerned” about the impact of the current recession on their personal finances rose from 43 percent last year to 49 percent this year, according to the survey commissioned by the American Savings Education Council and the “America Saves” campaign, with more than 1,000 participating groups.

“The recession clearly has not ended for millions of Americans,” said Stephen Brobeck, executive director of the Consumer Federation of America. High unemployment, consumer and mortgage debt, and the housing crisis help explain why savers haven’t made much progress.

The positive economic indicators often reported by the government and media measure how the climate is improving for businesses and affluent people, he said.

Meanwhile, regular people’s most valuable asset is their house, which in most markets has failed to regain value. And many workers are not getting pay increases at work. Instead, they’re contributing more to their health insurance plans while employers contribute less to their retirement plans, he said. Many households have tapped into their savings rather than add to it, he said.

The good news is that over the past year, the proportion of those with a saving plan rose from 55 to 57 percent, those saving for retirement at work rose from 49 to 54 percent, and those saving automatically outside work rose from 41 to 44 percent.

Having a plan is important, savings experts said. For example, the survey found 88 percent of those with a plan spent less than their income and saved the difference, compared with just half of those without a savings plan. Those with a plan also are better at paying debt, building emergency savings and saving for retirement, according to the survey.

Some of those differences are due to differences in income. But not all, America Saves officials said.

“Saving is for everyone, not just the financially fortunate,” said Washington State Treasurer James L. McIntire.

To help with constructing a savings plan and thinking more critically about socking away money, see the America Saves Web site at

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