Central Oregon

Savings fall, debt rising as economy recovers

NeighborImpact offers financial coaching

How to build emergency savings

BEND, Ore. - More and more Americans find themselves in the red. One third of Americans do not have any emergency savings, according to a study by NeighborWorks America, while 29 percent would be unable to repair a vehicle, pay medical bills, or offset the loss of a job.

Now, consumer debt is rapidly increasing again, almost back to pre-recession figures. According to the Federal Reserve Bank, consumer debt is almost at $ 11.7 trillion.

After a brief halt after the financial crisis, Americans are back to spending more than they have.

"People begin to stop borrowing at the pace that they were," Bill Valentine, president of Valentine Ventures in Bend, said Monday. "They were paying off debt -- that's the natural reaction to those periods. But we're not seeing a follow-through. We're not seeing a continued sense of austerity."

The numbers are looking grim.

"Unfortunately, our country still suffers from too little saving levels. That's across income brackets, across age groups -- it's across generations," said Valentine.

While even higher-income earners lack adequate savings, low-income families are hit hardest.

More than half (52 percent) of families making less than $40,000 a year have no savings. That number drops to 24 percent for those making between $40,000 and $60,000 a year.

"It's essential to have a buffer. Most people recommend at least three months of savings," said Lynne McConnell, associate director of HomeSource and Assets for NeighborImpact.

So what can you do to improve your financial health?

-Open up a 401(k) and take advantage of the employer match.

-Start putting money away each paycheck, even if it's as little as $10.

-Put half of your raises into savings.

If you need a one-on-one financial planning session, NeighborImpact's HomeSource program offers help.

"We have some trusted experts here at NeighborImpact to help people put together a workable budget, figure out how to save and how to thrive to achieve their goals," said McConnell.

Learn more in the NeighborImpact news item linked to the left of this story.

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