Americans Feel Good About Paying Bills; Just Don’t Ask About Retirement

New polling shows that people do not feel like they’re saving enough money for the long term.

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National Journal
Nancy Cook
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Nancy Cook
Nov. 25, 2013, 5 a.m.

Amer­ic­ans feel con­fid­ent that they can pay their monthly bills, even if they ex­press doubt about their abil­ity to plan and save for their fin­an­cial fu­tures.

That’s ac­cord­ing to new res­ults from an All­state/Na­tion­al Journ­al Heart­land Mon­it­or Poll, which re­cently gauged Amer­ic­an’s at­ti­tudes to­ward their per­son­al fin­ances five years after the glob­al fin­an­cial re­ces­sion.

Ninety per­cent of those sur­veyed said they felt fine about cov­er­ing day-to-day costs, an in­crease of 8 per­cent since April 2013. But Amer­ic­ans’ con­fid­ence level de­creased when it came to their abil­ity to pay med­ic­al bills for them­selves and their fam­ily (just 71 per­cent said that this seemed “real­ist­ic”). Sixty-eight per­cent had faith in their abil­ity to make mort­gage pay­ments, or pay off their debts, while just 58 per­cent felt like they were in­vest­ing their money for their fu­ture.

The abil­ity to make fin­an­cial plans splits starkly among those with col­lege de­grees and those without them. Four in 10 Amer­ic­ans, without col­lege edu­ca­tions, said they rarely had enough money left over each month after pay­ing their bills. Only 19 per­cent of col­lege grads found them­selves in such a paycheck-to-paycheck ex­ist­ence.

To in­crease their abil­ity to save money in the long run, the ma­jor­ity of Amer­ic­ans said that it was worth mak­ing sac­ri­fices in their daily spend­ing habits. They would make this trade-off, re­spond­ents said, even if it meant a lower qual­ity of life.

Few Amer­ic­ans be­lieved that any fin­an­cial wind­fall would ar­rive in the form of an in­her­it­ance. Sev­enty-four per­cent of Amer­ic­ans nev­er re­ceived this type of money from fam­ily mem­bers; 68 per­cent did not ex­pect to, either.

Over­all, the ma­jor­ity of Amer­ic­ans (53 per­cent) still be­lieve the U.S. re­mains in the throes of a re­ces­sion, a few years after the down­turn tech­nic­ally ended. It’s a com­ment­ary on the fra­gile fin­an­cial state that many Amer­ic­ans still feel like they find them­selves in, es­pe­cially when it comes to sav­ing for re­tire­ment, col­lege, or a rainy day fund.

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