Why Save When Borrowing is So Cheap?

Tim Iacono

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke is clearly winning his war against savers as the freakishly low interest rates mandated by the central bank combined with a weak economy here in the U.S. are making it either impracticable or impossible for many Americans to maintain even a tiny amount of cash set aside for a rainy day.

According to a survey by Bankrate.come that included the graphic to the right, a full one-quarter of Americans now have more credit card debt than emergency savings which, when you think about it, shouldn’t be toosurprising.

But, what was surprising (at least to me) was that a full 30 percent of those earning $75,000 or more could not say that they have more savings than credit card debt and 36 percent of college grads were characterized the same way.

One could make allowances for the avalanche of zero interest rate offers from credit card companies and how recent college grads have been having a tough time in the current economy, but still, these numbers seem quite high.

As might be expected, for non-college grads and low wage earners, things are much worse with nearly two-thirds of the respondents saying they had less savings than credit card debt, but things seem to be deteriorating rapidly for the middle and upper-middle class.

Overall, just over half of Americans now have more emergency savings than credit card debt while another 21 percent either don’t know what they have or have neither.

When asked how they feel about their level of savings as compared to a year ago, only 14 percent said they were more comfortable while 38 percent said they were less comfortable.

Don’t look for any of these numbers to improve much in the years ahead – at least not until 2015 when the Fed’s low interest rate policy might finally come to an end.