Americans: We’re rich but not saving a lot

Yahoo!’s home page this morning served up an interesting double dose about income, social responsibility, and personal savings rates.

We’re rich!

First up, a piece by Jeanine Skowronski about how our earnings compare with the rest of the world:

For example, if you make $52,000 a year (the median American household income for 2009), you are the 58,252,719 richest person in the world (or in the top 0.97 percentile of all moneymakers).

The article links to the Global Rich List, a little calculator that allows you to enter your annual income (anonymously) to see how it stacks up against individual earnings globally.  Most employed American middle-class (and above) workers will see that they’re doing remarkably well compared to the world generally.


The Global Rich List site is shamelessly manipulative.  Its purpose is not to solicit our investments, but rather to make us more aware of how even modest charitable donations can make a huge difference to those in need:

$8 could buy you 15 organic apples OR 25 fruit trees for farmers in Honduras to grow and sell fruit at their local market.

$30 could buy you an ER DVD Boxset OR a First Aid kit for a village in Haiti.

$73 could buy you a new mobile phone OR a new mobile health clinic to care for AIDS orphans in Uganda.

$2400 could buy you a second generation High Definition TV OR schooling for an entire generation of school children in an Angolan village.


The average American may be wealthy by global standards, but we’re not saving much of what we earn.  A second article posted on Yahoo! by Joe Mont details how Americans are saving less of their incomes in the midst of the recession:

When it comes to saving their pennies for a rainy day, millions of Americans are facing drought conditions, victimized by the bad decisions that come with a lack of financial literacy.

…The portion of adults who lack non-retirement savings has increased from 63% in 2007 to 67% in 2010. However, 30% — the statistical equivalent of more than 68 million people — have no savings. Only 24% are saving more now than they did a year ago because of the weak economy. Nearly 39% Generation Y adults, more than any other age group, reported having no savings. Of those with no savings, one in four say that if faced with an emergency, they would charge that expense to a credit card or take out a loan.

…One-third of adults, approximately 75 million people, don’t put any household income toward retirement. That’s a 5% increase from the 2008 survey, but unchanged from 2009.


Even as we climb out of this horrific recession, many Americans still live in the Land of Plenty compared to many of our neighbors around the world.  We probably could afford to share more of our good fortune, and we sure as heck should be saving more for rainy days and retirements.

These are bigger topics, and I plan on commenting more in the months to come, but there’s lots of food for thought here.

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