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HSBC Survey: Americans Saving More But Still Not Enough

3 September 2009

Survey results indicate the majority of Americans do not have nearly enough savings to sustain themselves should their income cease.

Mettawa, IL - HSBC Bank USA, N.A., (HSBC) today announced the results of a new survey which revealed that, although the U.S. personal savings rate has risen relative to recent years, the majority of Americans do not have nearly enough savings to sustain themselves should their income cease. The survey discovered that if respondents or the primary breadwinner in their home lost their job today, the majority of Americans (61 percent) could only live on their savings for three months or less, with 38 percent saying they do not even have enough funds to sustain their expenses for one month.

Experts have traditionally recommended having an emergency fund that could last three to six months1, but HSBC's new survey finds that only 39 percent of respondents are prepared for this. Today, experts are beginning to recommend having enough savings on hand to last at least twelve months2; by these standards, only 11 percent of Americans are adequately prepared.

"While we have seen a robust increase in the personal savings rate in 2009, and we are moving in the right direction, what is clear is that it's not enough," said David Goeden, Executive Vice President, Personal Financial Services, HSBC Bank USA, N.A. "More than ever, Americans are aware of the importance of having an emergency fund; yet, despite this heightened awareness—and rising unemployment rates—there is still a sweeping lack of preparedness for the unexpected."

Although the length of time people can live off of their savings is broadly correlated with income, the lack of a sufficient emergency fund is a problem that transcends income levels.

Fifty-one percent of respondents with a household income (HHI) of less than $50,000 could only live on savings for less than one month. Yet despite having a higher HHI, 29 percent of respondents with a HHI of more than $100,000 could only live on their savings for up to three months. Those who are prepared for less than one month include families with children (44 percent) and adults age 55 and older (31 percent).

Americans Are Cutting Spending and have Good Intentions

Although Americans' savings habits do not generally meet the needs of emergency funds, the survey did uncover that they have good intentions when it comes to saving and financial responsibility. When asked what they would do if they unexpectedly received $1,000, 63 percent said they would pay bills, and nearly 40 percent said they would put all or the majority into savings.

The survey confirmed that many Americans have indeed begun to make changes in how they spend.

Over the past six months:

  • 55 percent have cut back on leisure activities
  • 46 percent have cut back on travel
  • 40 percent have cut back on electronics

However, the HSBC survey found there are indicators these adjustments may not be long-lasting. Of those who have reduced spending, 93 percent will return to spending in at least one of the areas in which they have cut back once the economy improves.

"Americans recognize the importance of saving, yet there's a switch that needs to be flipped in order to embrace a savings mentality. Given life's uncertainties, saving is a responsibility, not just a luxury," continued Goeden. "To help Americans grow their savings, HSBC offers a simple, secure online savings account with no minimum balance, no monthly fees and a very attractive rate."

For more information on HSBC online savings please go to:

Note to editors


The HSBC Consumer Survey was conducted online in July 2009 among a nationally representative sample of over 1,000 U.S. households. Please note sample size varies per question, as not every respondent was asked each question.

About HSBC Bank USA, N.A.

HSBC Bank USA, N.A. has more than 470 bank branches throughout the United States, with approximately 380 in New York State. The Bank also operates in Florida, California, Washington, D.C. Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Oregon, Washington, Maryland, Illinois, Connecticut and Virginia. HSBC Bank USA, N.A. is the principal subsidiary of HSBC USA Inc., an indirectly-held, wholly-owned subsidiary of HSBC North America Holdings Inc. HSBC USA Inc. is one of the nation's largest bank holding companies by assets. Deposits in the United States are offered by HSBC Bank USA, N.A. Member FDIC.

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