Is Your Financial Future Under Control? 2 Out of 3 of Us Answer 'No'

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"Only about one-third of Americans are living within their means and think they are prepared for the long-term financial future. One-third are living within their means but are often not prepared for this long-term future. And one-third are struggling to live within their means."

That's the upshot of a new report from the Consumer Federation of America, which this week reported that 63 percent of Americans say they're making somewhere between "fair" and "no" progress in building up their savings.

This number isn't surprising. Times are tough, with some experts putting America's "real" unemployment rate -- the number of people unemployed while seeking work, plus those unemployed because they've given up looking -- at nearly twice the official unemployment rate, or 11.1 percent.

What makes the 63 percent figure so significant, though, is that according to the consumer advocacy group, most Americans are "doing everything right" to secure their financial futures.
  • 64 percent of respondents polled in the federation's survey say they "have sufficient emergency savings to pay for unexpected expenses like car repairs or a doctor visit."
  • 68 percent say they are spending less than they earn, and saving the difference.
  • 76 percent say they are either completely free of consumer (i.e., not mortgage or education loan) debt, or at least working to pay their debt down.
  • Through working, saving and paying down debt, a slim majority of Americans -- 51 percent -- say they now have enough money piled up in "emergency savings" to pay off their entire credit card debt, should that prove necessary.
  • A further 17 percent say they have no debt at all.
Yet, despite doing all the right things financially, it's not all good news.
  • For one thing, having only enough cash to pay off your debts only gets you to a net worth of zero -- which probably isn't what you want to have when heading into retirement.
  • For another thing, those same 17 percent who say they have no debt also have no savings, according to a separate study of family finances from Bankrate.com (RATE).
  • And the finances of many more Americans remain in an even more perilous state -- 28 percent of Americans do have credit card debt, and in fact, have more debt than money they have socked away in savings.
And hard as Americans are working to improve their finances, progress is hard to come by.

In Bankrate's study, it turns out that the number of respondents saying they are "more comfortable" with their debt load, and are seeing improvement in their "overall financial situation" over the past year are equally matched by the number of people saying they are "less comfortable" with their debt and feel "worse" about their financial situation. In fact, 24 percent of those polled swung either way on these questions -- while about half of people polled say they're basically stuck in neutral over the past year.

How do you feel about the state of your finances? Are you feeling more comfortable or less comfortable than you did one year ago -- or about the same? Weigh in below.

Motley Fool contributor Rich Smith has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned.

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32 Comments

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amy_robertson8

Come on people we don't really need articles to tell us this, we know Americans are in debt, and those people in debt are well aware of what needs to be done....STOP SPENDING MORE THAN YOU MAKE. Best tips to spend less
1. Stop spending money in bars if you are. They are a waste and if you are in debt you probably have better things to do with your time.
2. Stop wasting money on insurance, you can get cheaper car insurance most likely with gieco or esurance, and cheaper life insurance with something like LifeAnt.
3. Actually put money in your 401k. My Fidelity 401k has a 4% match. This is free money and you can use it for whatever you want later.
The biggest thing you can do...show some restraint, take control, work harder, and get yourself in shape..

April 06 2014 at 6:46 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Theresa Smith

It's the 2 steps forward one step back financial cha-cha for us! We bought a home just before the market crash..mid 2007, BUT got a super deal on it. It appraised well over the asking price and we got a fixed 6% mortgage so it's not too awful. We've been paying extra on the principle whenever we can and have saved ourselves a couple of years already on the overall mortgage length. But my husband got injured last year and couldn't return to his job anymore so he found another job that pays less by about $400/mo, BUT has a much better retirement..when he vests in it, which will be 6 years from now. We were seeing the light of day, when my elderly (broke) parents moved in with us. It's not so simply black and white as "better" OR "worse".. most people we know are very much like us, as the fallout from the economic collapse of 2008-2011 intersects with people changing lives and circumstances most of us are doing "better" in some ways, but "worse" in others. And I don't think anyone who isn't rich..and I mean million dollar rich, feels anywhere near secure.

March 23 2014 at 1:38 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
BriannaLin

Americans gotta get out of debt and live within their means! My tips -
1) Sell everything that you own and don't need.
2) Everybody should cut eating out costs as much as possible. Try to eat on less than $2 per day. It's very much possible if you do smart shopping at the grocery store (or online for non-perishables).
3) Cut back on transit costs. Drive a cheap car (or better yet, none at all). Use 4AutoInsuranceQuote for insurance ($25/month). Use GasBuddy for gas (save $100/month).
4) If your rent is too high, move. Don't buy unless you can afford.
5) Pay off all your debts. If you use a credit card, pay it off in full every month.

March 06 2014 at 10:31 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
ectullis

It was until about five years ago

March 03 2014 at 2:05 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
betty_brock

The Dem Socialists are in control and may be for another 6 years. Taxpayers don't have a chance.

March 02 2014 at 9:08 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
thefacts22

Who can be happy?...I am not in the Oba bandwagon,and soon I will be "retired",thank god I have always have been in total control of my spending,and will not need Big Brother to help me,as I intend to be in charge of my death panel

March 02 2014 at 7:58 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
jimlaw311

Best to live it up while young and then let "Big Brother" take up the slack when the $$$ is gone.Unfortunately that has not happened for me and am debt free(house,vehiclesand all lines of credit) and if not for my wife's penchant for supporting the economy I would be 100% guaranteed of never having to "work" again.

March 02 2014 at 3:13 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
SPQR

It's 50/50 on the economic front. About 100 millions Americans will be in FEMA camps soon eating all the rats they can catch. Hollywood stars will have rallys to collect food and BBQ grills for the rats. We will need new immigrants with money to replace to old people. The US will buy the Dominican Republic and ship all the poor people there so get ready!!! its a coming to your neighborhood soon

March 02 2014 at 1:06 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to SPQR's comment
thefacts22

We all be working and paying our National debt to China ....FOR DECADES

March 02 2014 at 8:00 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to thefacts22's comment
betty_brock

Try centuries.

March 02 2014 at 9:06 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down
crabnebulajr

Things have never been good for most of us. That is a myth right up there with the tooth fairy, every working class person knows this. I had to struggle to survive and then prosper, it was not easy. And it's not easy to keep what you've earned, since various governments come to power by promising to give your assets away to those who didn't make it. What is key is not falling victim to the constant pressure to consume what you don't need. To conform to the lifestyle pushed in commercials, by your relatives and peers. My husband and I have never been good consumers, thus we have assets to live on in our old age. Kept our carpet for thirty years, appliances as well, repaired instead of buying new, made our own meals, get our entertainment from the library and Red Box. Vacation in our back yard. If you spend everything you make what do you think is going to happen in your old age.

March 02 2014 at 7:14 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to crabnebulajr's comment
thefacts22

Socialists do not like people like you

March 02 2014 at 8:02 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
crabnebulajr

What future, our economy is in the toilet, bound to get worse, and the government keeps confiscating our assets. If I were young I would leave Scamlandia for some more civilized place.
This is a great place to live for the 1%, for the rest of us, not so much. We had the New Deal and the ruling class has been eliminating that ever since it got started. We had the most prosperous period for average people anywhere in the world from 1945-1990. Reagan then Clinton then Bush then Obama have seen to it that we lost all that, de-industrializing us, taking away what we need to live well, lowering wages by deregulating global corporations, constantly threatening to eliminate our pensions, social security, medical care, giving them power over our lives. Now we live in a fascist police state banana republic. With lunatics who want to start WWIII a two front war in the Near and Far East. The end of all empires. Our government are nothing but punks for global corporations, crooks, traitors. It's exceptional all right.

March 02 2014 at 7:08 AM Report abuse -3 rate up rate down Reply