SALT LAKE CITY — Individuals are saving more during the global pandemic than they were before the coronavirus outbreak, Zions Bank says in a new report.
The news comes even as another survey shows more than a third of working Americans say their financial situation is worse than a year ago.
Despite massive job losses and major economic impacts nationwide, the personal savings rate — the percentage of people's income remaining after taxes and spending — registered at nearly double pre-pandemic savings levels, the Salt Lake City-based bank said.
"We have clients that are just spending less money and that's natural," according to Lydia Levin, Zions' senior vice president and manager of client experience and digital banking strategies. "They're traveling less, they're eating out less, they're going out less and instead they are saving their funds."
By the end of 2020, that rate hit 13.7%, compared to 6% to 8% where it hovered over the past 10 years. Utahns have been socking away record amounts during the last year, according to figures from Zions Bank that saw deposits in Utah and Idaho jump by $4.87 billion in 2020 — up 30% from the previous year.
Typically during an economic downturn, the savings rate rises, Levin said. She said some families have been able to save more in the current environment, due to a reduction in spending combined with federal stimulus payments.
However, those nest-egg gains could be threatened by a vaccine-led economic recovery and resurgence in consumer spending, she added.
"It's interesting to see that the low-income Americans are spending nearly as much as they do pre-pandemic and high-income Americans they're spending less and they're contributing more than anyone in seeing this (current overall) reduction in consumer spending, and that's why we've seen more deposits (to savings)."
She said the savings trend may continue for at least the short term but could change when the economy opens up once the pandemic diminishes.
We have clients that are just spending less money and that's natural. They're traveling less, they're eating out less, they're going out less and instead they are saving their funds.
–Lydia Levin, Zions Bank senior VP and manager of client experience and digital banking strategies
Meanwhile, Edelman Financial Engines, in conjunction with the America Saves Week organization, the Bipartisan Policy Center and Funding Our Future, conducted research last month to examine current employee sentiments about their financial situations, in addition to trying to understand how prepared employees are for an actual financial emergency.
The research's key findings included learning that 35% of working Americans said their financial circumstance is worse now than it was one year ago. Data also indicated that 58% of working Americans reported feeling somewhat or very financially secure.
Even so, those sentiments are greatly disparate, with 83% of individuals whose yearly income was more than $100,000 saying they felt financially secure, compared to just 43% of people whose annual income was below $50,000. A majority of working Americans — 58% — feel like their future financial situation will be better than it is today.
Research indicated that younger generations expressed the most optimism for the future, with 75% of individuals identifying as Gen-Z believing their financial situation will improve. However, that upbeat attitude diminishes significantly as respondents age, with only 44% of Baby Boomers believing their financial situation will improve in the future.
Americans working in urban communities are far more likely to be optimistic about their future financial prospects, with 73% expressing positive sentiments toward the months ahead, the data showed.
Research also indicated that a number of working Americans are taking appropriate steps regarding saving up for emergencies, but many are still not as prepared as they could be.
"One of the troubling dynamics of the pandemic has been its impact on low-income families. They often work in industries that have suffered from the downturn, such as food service, leisure and hospitality and entertainment," said Robert Spendlove, Zions Bank vice president and senior economist. "Because these individuals and families have suffered so much, the financial support from state and federal governments has been critical to keeping them from struggling even more. As the economy continues to recover we must focus on their struggles and provide ongoing support to help them return to financial stability." Tips for building personal savings
As part of America Saves Week, Zions Bank offers seven tips for saving:
- Reset old spending habits: Rather than falling into pre-pandemic spending habits, continue with new money-saving routines.
- Start small: Many advisers suggest saving up three to six months in living expenses for emergencies. If that's overwhelming, start with a more attainable goal of $1,000.
- Pay yourself first: Determine beforehand how much of your earnings you plan to save each month. Increase the amount if you get a raise.
- Make saving automatic: Utilize direct deposit, along with automatic payroll deductions to transfer money from checking to savings every pay period.
- Pay down debt: Work at lowering monthly credit card debt by adding a modest amount to your monthly minimum, which can result in thousands of dollars in interest savings.
- Consider investments: For long-term savings goals, consider investing in bonds, mutual funds, real estate and stocks.
- Make a commitment to save: Pledge to create a simple savings plan to build and maintain savings.