We need to come to terms with our spending habits.
About half of 3,000 Americans polled in a recent survey said that they're spending more than they earn at least a few months each year. However, just 10 percent said they were living beyond their means, according to the survey by Rasmussen Reports for Country Financial released on Tuesday (Hat tip to MSNBC.)
Part of the problem may be that a lot of Americans don't see saving as part of their lifestyle. Half of those surveyed do not set monthly savings goals for themselves, according to the Rasmussen survey. Of those who are spending more than they earn, 36 percent are dipping into savings, 22 percent use a credit card and 8 percent are borrowing money in other ways.
It's perhaps not surprising that a lot of Americans don't make the connection between overspending and financial risk. Schoolchildren don't learn much about personal finance, and many people find themselves with certain blind spots in their knowledge later in life. Just 44 percent of Americans understand that a credit score measures the risk of not repaying a loan, rather than their debt or financial resources, according to a survey by the Consumer Federation of America released earlier this week.
Only about half of those surveyed by Rasmussen said that they have a monthly budget.
To be sure, many of us are still shaking off the effects of the Great Recession and some are in tight spots. Americans are saving less partly because they're just not making as much money as before. The median annual wage in the U.S. fell to $26,364 in 2010 -- its lowest level since 1999, according to Reuters.
Still, the issue of inadvertent overspending is a pressing one, since a growing number of Americans are buried in debt or have no savings. As of last year, almost a quarter of all families had no liquid assets, meaning savings that can easily be converted into cash, according to a recent study by the University of Michigan. That number has been on the rise in the past couple years. Meanwhile, 10 percent of families had more $30,000 in debt as of 2011, up from 8.5 percent of families in 2009, according to the study.