According to a 2015 Google Consumer Survey, approximately 62% of Americans have less than $1,000 in their savings accounts and 21% don’t even have a savings account. Why don’t Americans save?

A few preliminaries:

  • Americans used to save. Not saving is new behavior.
  • While poverty makes it harder to save, the poor used to save a lot more.  
  • Current non-saving behavior affects all income groups.
  • The decline in savings among rich countries is global, so whatever is behind this trend is unlikely to be specific to the US.

Some theories:

1. Temporal Discounting: live for today, tomorrow is just too abstract a concept

- But in earlier times, tomorrow was even more theoretical…

2. Savings behavior is a hassle, like you’ve got to actually do it and it takes a little time and even littler effort

- A few clicks is all we’re talking about – not walking a mile to the bank

3. People underestimate the frequency of "special occasions" and emergencies

Most Americans report an “unanticipated expense” every year – do they just have very short memories?

Next: some better theories on why Americans save less than they used to.

References Derek Fisher Why Don’t Americans Save More Money?   April 19, 2016 Science Behind Why You Don't Save (And What To Do About It)   July 25, 2016