Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

How Much Does the Average American Have in Their Savings Account?

By John Maxfield – Updated Oct 3, 2018 at 3:18PM

You’re reading a free article with opinions that may differ from The Motley Fool’s Premium Investing Services. Become a Motley Fool member today to get instant access to our top analyst recommendations, in-depth research, investing resources, and more. Learn More

A new survey shows that the average American has less than $1,000 in their savings account.

It will probably come as no surprise to you that the average American has less in their savings account than financial planners recommend. According to a new survey by, more than half of Americans have savings account balances below $1,000.

That doesn't go far when you consider that even a moderately serious car repair could set you back more than twice that amount -- I would know; I paid for one last week. And it wouldn't put a dent in the costs to treat a serious medical ailment.

Woman in yellow sweater holding pink piggy bank with yellow background

Image source: Getty Images.

The state of savings in America

For many Americans, the situation is even more dire. The same survey found that 34% of the 7,000-plus respondents had savings account balances of $0. That's up 6 percentage points from last year, when the figure was 28%.

This is a problem when you consider that financial planners tend to recommend that people have enough in savings to cover three to six months' worth of living expenses. Even for those at the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder, that easily equates to $10,000 or more.

Graph showing how much money Americans have in their savings accounts

Data source: Chart by author.

Young people tend to be the most behind in this regard. The survey found that 37% of seniors aged 65 and up have at least $1,000 in their savings accounts, compared to only 27% of young millennials (aged 18 to 24).

There's also a disparity between men and women, as the latter are more likely to have no savings whatsoever. The survey found that 42% of women respondents had $0 in savings, compared to 28% of men.

The underlying problem is that most people tend spend as much as -- if not more than -- they earn. One could even argue that this is the essence of the American economy, which looks to consumer spending for upwards of 70% of gross domestic product (GDP).

How I learned to save more money

Reversing this trend takes discipline -- or, in my case, marriage.

Prior to getting married in 2008, I too tended to overspend. I wouldn't think twice about dropping $50 or more at a bar on a Friday night, or getting a soda every time I went out to eat, or a Starbucks coffee whenever I left the house. My wife, who was born to save money, put a stop to this.

By eliminating superfluous spending, and earning a reasonable living, my wife and I are now able to save a quarter or more of our income.

It helps that the government encourages Americans to do so through lucrative tax breaks aimed at boosting retirement savings. In my case, for instance, because I'm a contract writer for The Motley Fool, and thus self-employed for legal and tax purposes, I can reduce my taxable income by as much as 25% simply by contributing to a self-employed person's IRA, or SEP-IRA (the acronym officially stands for "simplified employee pension individual retirement arrangement").

What I've learned is that saving money takes sacrifice. But that sacrifice, while inconvenient and uncomfortable in the short run, will pay off in spades when you retire.

Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

Invest Smarter with The Motley Fool

Join Over 1 Million Premium Members Receiving…

  • New Stock Picks Each Month
  • Detailed Analysis of Companies
  • Model Portfolios
  • Live Streaming During Market Hours
  • And Much More
Get Started Now

Related Articles

Motley Fool Returns

Motley Fool Stock Advisor

Market-beating stocks from our award-winning analyst team.

Stock Advisor Returns
S&P 500 Returns

Calculated by average return of all stock recommendations since inception of the Stock Advisor service in February of 2002. Returns as of 10/07/2022.

Discounted offers are only available to new members. Stock Advisor list price is $199 per year.

Premium Investing Services

Invest better with The Motley Fool. Get stock recommendations, portfolio guidance, and more from The Motley Fool's premium services.