Americans Get Deeper in the Red

Anna Williams
Posted

Though the overall economy may be getting back on track, it looks like the personal finances of many Americans are still shockingly fragile.

In fact, a new Bankrate.com survey finds that more than 1 in 4 Americans actually owe more in credit card debt than they have stashed away in savings—the highest percentage in four years.

Overall, only half of Americans have savings accounts that boast a higher balance than the amount owed on their cards. About 17% of respondents were operating in neutral—they don’t have any credit card debt, but they also don’t have a penny socked away.

Notably, the Bankrate.com survey found that it’s Americans in their high-earning years (age 30 to 64) who were most likely to owe more than they have saved. This is particularly worrisome because it’s a time period when, ideally, increased income should lead to more savings—not falling deeper into debt.

“This is a reflection of the stagnant incomes, long-term unemployment and high household expenses that are hampering the financial progress of many Americans,” Greg McBride, Bankrate.com’s chief financial analyst, said in a press release.

If you feel like your own financial progress has been hampered, you certainly aren’t alone—or without options. Follow our checklist to help create a plan for paying off debt. It isn’t hopeless: Consider the story of one man who successfully eliminated $40,000 of his debt. And while you put that plan in place, it’s time to start ramping up those savings. Turn your emergency fund around with these tips to be happier about saving, and follow just three simple steps to banish bad money habits for good.