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Most Surprising Money Facts

How we spend money, and why, reveals a lot about our priorities

  • unleaded gas advertised below two dollars a gallon, Shocking money facts of 2015

    Money mind blowers

    One of the perks of being a personal finance writer is that your in-box is the recipient of all sorts of timely research data and curious news items related to money and how people spend it. Not all of these fascinating factoids make their way into the articles I write in a given year, which is why I started this annual year-end compilation of the most surprising money facts I've stumbled across in the year now ending.

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  • Surprising money facts Millennial money smarts

    Millennial money smarts

    A Fidelity survey found that two-thirds of millennials think it's more acceptable now for adult children to move back home with their parents, and nearly 50 percent say they have received some kind of financial help from their parents since leaving home. But when asked whom they trust most for information on money matters, only a third said their parents, with 41 percent saying their parents were not good financial role models. Go figure.

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  • unleaded gas advertised below two dollars a gallon, Shocking money facts of 2015

    Pumped-up savings

    With the recent declines in gasoline prices, the government estimates that the average American household will save about $700 this year on gas, with consumers saying they're using that savings at the pump to pay down debt and beef up their savings. Well, maybe not. Despite what we say, a study by the JPMorgan Chase Institute found that we're actually spending about 80 percent of what we're saving on gasoline, much of it on discretionary items such as entertainment and dining out.

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  • Surprising money facts  Lost art of check writing

    Lost art of check writing

    The Federal Reserve found that payments by check dropped more than 50 percent from 2000 to 2012. A poll found that nearly 38 percent of people's checkbooks go unused nowadays. Meanwhile, there's been a fivefold increase in use of the Google search term "how to write a check" over the last decade. It appears check writing is becoming a lost art, much like cursive writing and longhand division.

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  • Surprising money facts  Bank fees bonanza

    Bank fees bonanza

    Americans may be writing fewer checks, but the fees we pay to maintain a checking account have never been higher. Average monthly maintenance fees on checking accounts have gone higher than $13 for the first time, while less than 25 percent of accounts still offer free checking, according to the semiannual Checking Account Fee Survey. The average monthly maintenance fee is now $13.09, which is $157.08 per year!

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  • Surprising money facts  Bank Paycheck to paycheck

    Paycheck to paycheck

    According to a SunTrust report, nearly a third of Americans who bring home $75,000 or more annually are living paycheck to paycheck. Most interesting, 44 percent of them say it's due to dining out and entertainment expenses. And a study this year by Northwestern Mutual found that 54 percent of Americans have personal debt that is equal to or greater than their savings.

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  • Surprising money facts Wedding bell blues

    Wedding bell blues

    It's shocking enough that the average cost of an American wedding now tops $30,000, but here's something that should really make betrothed couples stop and think. A survey by economics faculty members at Emory University showed that the more you spend on a wedding, the more likely it is that your marriage may end in divorce. Couples who spend $20,000 or more on their weddings are 3.5 times as likely get divorced as those who spend $5,000 to $10,000, according to the survey.

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  • Surprising money facts   Walk to the gym, and cancel your membership

    Walk to the gym, and cancel your membership

    Americans spend nearly $27 billion annually on gym memberships and health club services, with an estimated 80 percent of those memberships going unused after the first five months. And a recent study by the London School of Economics showed that if you're a woman of any age or a man over age 50, you're more likely to stay slim and fit by simply taking a brisk daily walk than by joining a gym.

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  • Surprising money facts  Smartphone overload

    Smartphone overload

    Get the feeling that everyone's always on their phone? Turns out they really are. According to a Gallup poll, half of U.S. smartphone owners check their device at least several times an hour, and 11 percent check it every few minutes. But more than half of millennials — the most addicted generation — say they'd be happier if they used their phones less. That may be starting to happen, as a 2015 Gartner study found that smartphone sales worldwide recorded the slowest growth rate since 2013.

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  • Surprising money facts    A family affair
    Getty Images

    A family affair

    A study released this year by TD Ameritrade found that one-fifth of all American adults are "financial supporters," providing financial assistance to a parent or an adult child. And while 25 percent of boomers fall into that category, perhaps surprisingly, approximately a fifth of Generation X and millennials are also financial supporters. The study found that most financial supporters say they're happy to help family members and are willing to sacrifice more if necessary.

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  • Surprising money facts  Nursing care nightmare

    Nursing care nightmare

    With the aging U.S. population, the demand for assisted living and nursing home care is skyrocketing, as are the costs of such care. A report by Genworth Financial found that nationwide, the median annual cost for a private room in a nursing home is now $91,250, compared with $87,600 last year. The most shocking care costs are in Alaska, where $281,415 is the median rate to live in a nursing home for a year.

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  • Surprising money facts   House hunting

    House hunting

    The times they are a-changin'. The average first-time homebuyer is now 33 years old, according to Zillow. In the 1970s, first-time homebuyers spent about 1.7 times their annual income on their first house. Today, first homes average 2.6 times the buyers' annual income. And a study by the real estate brokerage Redfin found that 38 percent of millennials are choosing to put off a wedding or honeymoon in order to save up to buy a house.

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  • Surprising money facts    A penny saved

    A penny saved

    Last but not least, here's a hopeful story for all those who think they can't put anything away in savings. As recently reported in USA Today and elsewhere, 73-year-old Otha Anders of Louisiana has always taken a moment to bend over and pick up any lost pennies he happens upon. He considers found pennies to be a reminder from God to always be thankful. Forty-five years and 15 five-gallon plastic water jugs later, Anders finally cashed in his half-million-plus pennies — $5,136.14 worth, to be exact, including those he otherwise saved — to pay for some dental expenses. Amen, and may God bless all the penny-pinchers.

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  • Money End Slide
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Jeff Yeager is the author of Don't Throw That Away!, The Ultimate Cheapskate's Road Map to True Riches and The Cheapskate Next Door. His website is; you can friend him on Facebook or follow him on Twitter.