Personal finance

More than a year into the coronavirus pandemic, Americans are still struggling to save

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As the coronavirus pandemic drags on, many Americans have learned to cope with the new normal.

Saving for emergencies and long-term goals, such as retirement, is still a top concern, however.

More than 60% of Americans said in June they were either extremely concerned or somewhat concerned about the state of their finances, according to a survey released Sept. 30 from the National Endowment for Financial Education. The survey, conducted online by the Harris Poll in June, questioned more than 2,000 American adults on the state of their money.

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While that’s a decline from April 2020, when 77% said they were concerned about money, it still shows that many are struggling with their finances.

“The fact that still over half of us are concerned about that probably says more about our daily financial lives than it does the influence of the pandemic,” said Billy Hensley president and CEO of the National Endowment for Financial Education. “The pandemic just shed light on and worsened something that was already fragile.”

The top issue for Americans? Saving enough money

Saving remains a top-of-mind issue and sticking point for many. Some 37% of those polled said that having enough in emergency savings is their top concern, a slight decrease from 41% that said the same in April 2020.

Worry about the long-term has increased. Of those surveyed in June, 31% said that having enough saved for retirement is their top concern, an increase from 23% from April 2020.

Some of this may reflect a return to a sense of normalcy as the pandemic continues, according to Hensley. In June, those saying that job security is a top concern declined to 22% from 33% in September 2020 and 39% in April 2020.

Having a greater sense of job security may give people enough peace of mind to start looking at their other financial goals, such as padding emergency savings or building up their retirement accounts, Hensley said.

Progress is being made

To be sure, there were positive results of the survey that show that Americans are headed in the right direction.

Those who are extremely concerned about their personal finances decreased to 29% in June from 43% in April 2020. And, 42% feel either very or somewhat optimistic about their financial situation 12 months from now, a jump from 34% that said the same thing in previous surveys.

The survey also showed that Americans were adjusting to the pandemic. Some 70% have made a change to their personal finances such as cutting monthly expenses or putting off a major financial decision.

Of course, since June, new concerns about Covid-19, including vaccinations and the delta variant, have likely impacted people’s optimism. Still, the data from the National Endowment for Financial Education shows that many Americans are pushing forward and trying to improve their personal finances.

“There’s been some really good changes that people have made in their day to day financial lives, those who could,” said Hensley.

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