PhotoAn annual survey of consumers has found that 40% of U.S. households report “good” or “excellent” progress in meeting savings goals.

The Consumer Federation of America (CFA), which manages the America Saves program, is disappointed with the result. More distressing, the group says it is consistent with the survey's other responses.

For example, only 49% of consumers said they are able to save at least 5% of their income. Just 52% think they are on track with their retirement savings. Fewer than 43% have an automatic savings plan outside of work and just 38% carry no consumer debt.

But the situation might not be as bleak as it seems. Around 70% of consumers reported at least some progress in meeting savings needs.

Two-thirds are able to save at least some money each month. And 63% reported “sufficient emergency savings to pay for unexpected expenses like car repairs or a doctor visit.”

Gender gap

One thing that stood out in the survey results is men seem to be saving at a higher rate than women.

“The most important reason for the gender gap in savings is differences in income and wealth,” Stephen Brobeck, executive director of the CFA, said in a release. “The fact that men have larger incomes and financial assets than women makes it easier for them to save.”

But Americans, on the whole, save less than their counterparts in some other countries. China and Japan, for example, have much higher consumer savings rates than the U.S.

Last week, NPR's TED Radio House presented the proposition that language might affect a person's tendency to put money away for the future. Keith Chen, an associate professor of economics UCLA, suggests that languages that do not make strong distinctions between the present and future make it easier for those language speakers to stay focused on the future. You can listen to the results of his research here.

Reasons for not saving

When the America Saves researchers asked consumers why they didn't save more, they got a different answer. For those still working who said they were not saving enough for retirement, about one-quarter said all their money went to meet day-to-day expenses. Another quarter said they were paying off debt.

For those under 45, paying off college loans leaves little money to put away. For consumers over 45, mortgage or rent was cited as the reason there is little or no money for savings at the end of the month.

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