A full quarter of Americans have debt and aren't saving for retirement, but they still feel good about their money
- About 27% of Americans who have debt and aren't saving for retirement still think they're in good financial shape.
- That's according to a recent survey by Insider and Morning Consult, which asked around 2,000 Americans about their financial health for a new series, "The State of Our Money."
- At the end of the day, it's a naturally American predicament to be juggling debt, current expenses, and saving for the future.
- Perhaps with sluggish wage growth and record levels of debt affecting every generation the threshold for feeling "good" about our money is sitting pretty low.
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There's a big gap between perception and reality in too many Americans' financial lives - or maybe that's just our new normal.
The findings reveal that a large share of the respondents feel ostensibly great about their money, even though they're lagging on traditional markers of financial success.
About 27% of the survey respondents had some sort of debt - whether a mortgage, credit-card debt, or student loans - and also are not currently contributing to a retirement savings account, yet still consider their financial health to be in good or very good shape.
That's not to say all debt is inherently bad. Taking on debt responsibly can offer valuable leverage - like getting a mortgage in order to buy a home that will appreciate in value or taking on student loans to get a job in a high-paying industry, for example.
It's possible some of the survey respondents with debt are working on building up an emergency fund before contributing to a retirement account or want to stamp out their debt entirely before saving for the future at all. Still, most people can't afford to waste time when it comes to saving and investing.
Usually financial planners recommend paying off all high-interest debt, like balances on credit cards, before turning to retirement savings. If you have a loan charging an interest rate below 7% to 8%, however, it's best to stick to regular payments and put any extra money toward retirement savings, particularly if you have the opportunity to earn a matching contribution on your employer-sponsored 401(k).
At the end of the day, it's a naturally American predicament to be juggling debt, current expenses, and saving for the future. With sluggish wage growth plaguing a significant portion of US workers and record levels of debt affecting every generation, the threshold for feeling "good" about our money may be sitting pretty low.
Check back on "The State of Our Money" throughout the month for more findings and analysis.
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