Partner Spotlight: America Saves Week – Helping People Save All Year Long
Thousands of organizations participate in America Saves Week each year, promoting good saving practices and encouraging people to assess their saving status. The U.S. Department of the Treasury was a proud participant in America Saves Week 2013 (Feb. 25 - March 2). We spoke with the two lead organizers of America Saves Week – Nancy Register, director of America Saves and associate director of the Consumer Federation of America, and Nevin Adams, director of the American Savings Education Council – about the value of saving, the current savings climate in the United States, and how to encourage saving throughout the year.
Why is it important to save?
Nancy Register: Saving is an important part of good financial behavior because a savings account helps keep you from going into debt or asking family and friends to borrow money. We know that every household has unplanned expenses that aren’t in the budget and when you don’t have money in the bank to pay for those expenses, you are at risk for all kinds of negative consequences. It’s important for every household in the country have a contingency savings account to help pay for unplanned expenses.
Nevin Adams: The importance of saving generally comes down to two things: the things you didn’t plan for and the things that you’d like to do but can't afford. Things you don’t plan for can be as serious as losing your job or as mundane as a flat tire. If you haven't set aside money for those types of emergencies, you'll have to find the money somewhere else, either by cutting back on other spending or perhaps by taking on debt. As for the things you can’t afford, those can be anything from a new car to retirement. These tend to cost more and aren’t essential now, but might be in the future. Generally speaking, setting aside a little now can add up to a lot over time and can make it possible to achieve those important goals without taking a big financial hit down the road.
What can you tell us about the current savings climate?
Nancy Register: I think American families are still feeling fragile financially. The need to have a savings account was brought home to all of us during the recession and I think people are looking for ways to save more on a regular basis, including paying down debt. Saving is still top of mind and this is a good time to recommit. The main message is: You don't have to save a lot every month.
Nevin Adams: Times are still tough for many Americans and surveys suggest that even those with jobs are nervous about their prospects for the future. However, that uncertainty seems to have brought about—at least for some—a heightened awareness of the need to set money aside for a rainy day. A survey released last year as part of America Saves Week noted that over the past three years, there has been a decline in the number of people who spend less than their income and save the difference, are building home equity, have adequate emergency savings, and think they are saving enough for retirement. Effective saving starts with a plan – and there’s no better place to plan – and no better time to start – than America Saves Week.
What campaign resources and information can people access to continue talking about money and savings after March 2?
Nancy Register: People should visit AmericaSaves.org for more information after March 2. Military Saves and Young America Saves are also great resources. We really want everyone to assess their savings all year long, not just during America Saves Week. To help, people can sign up every year to take the America Saves Week pledge to recommit to their savings goal.
Nevin Adams: We also offer some good information and links to other savings sources at www.choosetosave.org, including our Ballpark E$timate, an interactive online tool for helping to figure out how much you need to save to fund a comfortable retirement. There’s also a free app available for download.