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AARP Bulletin Survey on Consumer Saving & Debt

The AARP Bulletin conducted a survey to understand consumer habits surrounding saving and debt. Given the weak economy and increased pressure on individuals to save for their own retirement, it is important to have insight about these behaviors.

Key findings included:

  • Over the last year many adults report saving more or spending less. Three quarters (76%) of adults and/or their spouse have started saving more of their money and/or started to cut back on their spending in the past 12 months.
  • Nearly nine in ten of the adults who changed their spending and/or saving behavior have done so to have more money available for emergencies. Among adults who have started to save more and/or to cut back on their spending (n=734), the most popular reason among those probed in this survey is to have more money available for emergencies (87%). This is followed by wanting to have more money saved for retirement (70%), having a decline in household income in the past 12 months (51%), thinking they or their spouse may lose a job in the next 12 months (36%), and having lost a job in the past 12 months or their spouse having done so (29%).
  • About half (53%) of adults and/or their spouse are currently saving for retirement.
  • Roughly a third or more of adults have a mortgage payment (42%), vehicle loan (36%), or credit card balance that is not paid in full each month (32%).
  • Roughly three quarters of adults who have tried to reduce their debt in the last six months have done so by reducing the amount they dine out, their consumer good purchases, and their vacations (75%) as well as by paying with cash or a debit card instead of a credit card (73%). 


The survey was fielded among a nationally representative sample of 1,018 adults at least 18 years old from August 25-28, 2011. For more information, please contact Colette Thayer at cthayer@aarp.org.

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