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You Can't Save It If You Never Had It

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A penny saved is a penny earned, but a penny earned has a slim chance of being a penny saved these days. In a CBS News/New York Times poll fielded this month, one-quarter of adults said they hadn't saved any money during the previous year. One-fifth of respondents said they'd managed to save less than 5 percent of their household income. One in four saved between 5 percent and 10 percent, while one in five saved between 10 percent and 20 percent. Just one American in every 25 salted away more than 20 percent of their household income. Despite a well-earned reputation for improvidence, men were more likely than women to have saved at least 5 percent of their income: 54 percent of men, vs. 41 percent of women, said they'd done so. No doubt this gender gap is a function of the fact that men typically have higher income, but it still challenges the stereotype of men as irresponsible spendthrifts. As you can see from the chart below, the widespread lack of saving has left many Americans feeling vulnerable when it comes to meeting major expenses. Why don't more people save more money? Nearly half the respondents (48 percent) said they make just enough money to cover their bills; 17 percent said they don't even make that much. Of course, this is not to say they've been wise in incurring all of those bills. Anyhow, just 24 percent of respondents said they feel "very secure" about their financial future, with another 54 percent feeling "somewhat secure."