37% of Americans Think They’re Too Broke to Save

What Are You Saving for in 2015

Americans really want to save. They just don’t know if they can do it.

Saving money is this year’s most popular financial resolution, with more than 37 percent of Americans prioritizing it over paying down debt, curbing their spending, investing and even getting a raise. But a new GOBankingRates survey run through Survata, which asked consumers about their biggest savings goals for 2015, found nearly one in four respondents aren’t at all confident that they’ll be able to meet this resolution.

The poll revealed Americans’ No. 1 short- and long-term savings goals, the biggest obstacles they believe are keeping them from success, and what they’re planning on doing differently in 2015 to save more.

Overall, building an emergency fund came in first place for short-term savings goals, while saving for retirement was the most popular long-term goal. Insufficient income was the top response for the biggest obstacle facing savers in 2015, followed by unemployment; more than 22 percent of respondents said they have little or no confidence they’ll be able to follow through on their savings resolution this year.

There were some surprising variations among demographics. For example, women are more focused on building an emergency fund, while men are far more likely to be saving for a vehicle. Millennials also have cars on their minds, as well as big-ticket items and vacations, whereas Gen Xers are pursuing homeownership and baby boomers are busy saving for home renovations and retirement.

Related: Study Finds More People Are Afraid of Going Broke Than Dying

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What Americans Are Saving for in 2015

Top Short-Term Savings Goals

Emergency fund36.82%
Home renovations/repairs19%
Big-ticket purchase4.88%

Note that due to rounding, figures do not add up to 100 percent.

Top Long-Term Savings Goals

Retirement health care costs19.60%
Having a family8.66%

The Gender Divide

For their short-term financial goals, men are approximately 50 percent more likely than women to be saving for a vehicle, while women are 16 percent more likely to be saving for an emergency fund. As for long-term financial goals, women are 40 percent more likely to be saving for retirement health care costs, while men are more likely to be saving for a family and education — roughly 30 and 26 percent more, respectively.

The Conflicting Priorities of Millennials

The 18- to 24 year-olds surveyed listed saving for a vehicle as their top short-term goal far more than any other group. The other most common savings goals for this age group were building an emergency fund and planning a vacation. Of all the respondents, 24- to 34-year-olds were more than twice as likely to be saving for a wedding.

Saving for a family was the top long-term goal among 18 -to 24-year-olds, but this age group was the least likely to be saving for retirement or an emergency fund. Millennials were also the least likely to list paying down debt as something they will do differently to achieve their savings goals, despite one in 10 citing loans as their biggest obstacle to saving. That said, given millennials are the most likely to be struggling with unemployment, low wages and student loans, they might not feel they have the extra funds needed to tackle debt.

Related: 7 Money Myths About Millennials

Generation X: The Struggle to Settle Down

Among those surveyed, 25- to 44-year olds were most likely of any age group to list homeownership as their top long-term savings goal, followed by saving for a family.

For short-term goals, this group was the most likely of any age bracket to be saving for a wedding. Meanwhile, 35- to 44-year-olds were most concerned with building an emergency fund.

Baby Boomers: Preparing for the Future

45- to 64-year-olds were the most likely of any age group to be saving short-term for home renovations or repairs.

Among all respondents, there was a strong correlation between age and likelihood to select retirement health care costs or retirement as a long-term savings goal. Those 45 and older named saving for retirement and retirement health care costs as their top long-term savings goals; respondents 65 and older were most likely to be saving for both categories, while 18- to 24-year-olds were the least likely.

Following the Money: Income and Savings Goals

Income and saving for a big-ticket purchase or a vacation are positively correlated: The more money you make, the more likely it is that you’ll be saving up for a big purchase or that trip to the Bahamas.

It comes as no surprise that those with the two highest income brackets are least likely to be saving for an emergency fund, while the lowest income bracket is most likely to have this goal. This remained the biggest concern across all income brackets except those earning $150,000 plus a year, who were more concerned with saving for a vacation.

Saving for retirement and retirement health care costs positively correlates with income; as the respondent’s salary increases, so does the likelihood that he will be saving for one of the retirement goals.

Additionally, those with the lowest and highest income brackets are both the most likely to be saving for a family.

The Biggest Obstacles to Saving in 2015

Insufficient income36.72%
Poor money management10.75%
Credit card debt9.55%
No bank account1.19%
No obstacles23.28%

Even though insufficient income was the most popular obstacle to saving in 2015, unemployment was the most consistent factor across all age groups. Among 18- to 24-year-olds, 25- to 34-year-olds and 55- to 64-year-olds, about one in nine respondents named unemployment as their biggest obstacle.

Men vs. Women: Women were more likely to list unemployment and insufficient income as their biggest obstacles, while men were more likely to choose poor money management.

Millennials: Unemployment was the top obstacle among 18-to 34-year olds, but they were also more likely than any other age group to cite poor money management as a problem. Those 34 and under were also the most likely to cite loans as an obstacle to saving, likely due to student debt.

Gen X: Insufficient income was the top obstacle for this age group, consistent with overall results. Gen Xers were also more likely than their younger and retired counterparts to mention credit card debt.

Baby Boomers: Those aged 55 to 64 were most likely of any group to list unemployment as the top obstacle, followed by insufficient income and credit card debt.

How Confident Are Americans That They’ll Meet Their Savings Goals?

Somewhat confident53.93%
Extremely confident23.78%
Not very confident17.31%
Not confident at all4.98%

Most respondents, almost 54 percent, feel “somewhat confident” in their ability to reach their savings goals in 2015. A third (34 percent) feel “extremely confident.” Only 5 percent said they were “not confident at all,” while more (17 percent) said they were “not very confident” that they could reach their 2015 savings goals.

What They’ll Do Differently to Achieve Their Goals

Budget more effectively43.58%
Pay down debt23.38%
Contribute to a retirement savings account9.75%
Consult professional advice (advisor, books, blogs, etc.)4.38%
Open a bank account or get a better bank account3.78%
I won’t do anything differently15.12%

Note that due to rounding, figures do not add up to 100 percent.

When asked what they planned to do differently in 2015 to achieve their goals, the most common response was to budget more effectively, with 43 percent of respondents giving this answer. The next most popular response was paying down debt (23 percent); 15 percent said they didn’t have plans to make changes in the new year.


GOBankingRates conducted a Survata survey from Dec. 3 to 11, 2014, which polled 1,006 respondents, all of whom confirmed having a savings goal for 2015 before being asked questions regarding their savings habits and goals.

Photo credit: Erica Minton

  • Elyssa Kirkham

    Interesting stuff! My 2015 savings goal would probably fall in the “vacation” category, my husband’s turning 30 and he loves travel so we are planning a trip to Amsterdam and Copenhagen. We actually started saving a few months ago for it to make sure it wouldn’t disrupt our monthly budget.

  • Maya

    Many American have a steak taste on a hamburger budget . That’s part of the problem we now face from a long time ago. Barrow to the max and then whine about now having enough money . Nice house , car or truck and boat. Can you afford them or does it really matter at this period of time?

    I’m just gonna make smart decisions with my money so I don’t end up with an empty bank account:

    1) Paying off my debts as they come to me. Never holding a credit card balance longer than a month. If this means living in a small studio apartment and eating ramen, rice, and beans, so be it.

    2) I will always buy small, fuel efficient and durable cars. I drive a 2006 Honda Civic now. It costs me nothing to fill up and next to nothing to insure ($25/month from Insurance Panda… woohoo!). I will not drive when I don’t need to, and use public transportation whenever possible.

    3) Developing multiple revenue streams. Doing side jobs. Building up small businesses. Doing contract work. Basically doing whatever I can to generate income from multiple sources.

    4) Grow my revenue and assets no matter what. Make sure I am always expanding and develop them to the point that they consistently generate reliable cash flow.

    5) The most important one – make as much as I can. Save as much as I can.

    iPhones… ecigarettes… Starbucks… Chipotle Burritos…new clothes.. organic lipgloss… expensive yoga classes. Why not try living in your means for once? No wonder we have a debt crisis

  • michelle

    This is very interesting, and I have been there and done that.