Donald W. Reynolds National Center For Business Journalism

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Story jump-start: Big data on savings

January 13, 2017

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Many Americans make savings one of their New Year's resolutions. This data should jump-start a business story. ("Attack of the Piggy banks" image by "Low Jianwei" via flickr, CC B Y 2.0)
Looking to report on retirement savings? Use these angles to show your readers three ways they can save more. (Image via flickr user Low Jianwei)

For many Americans, New Year’s brings a recurring resolution: Save more money. That can mean coming up with a retirement strategy, strategizing about college debt, paying off credit cards or just getting family finances in order. This blog offers facts and figures on personal savings to help with your business reporting while the topic is top-of-mind with your readers.

• Two-thirds of adults globally remain financially illiterate according to the Standard & Poor’s Financial Literacy survey. 57 percent of Americans remain financially literate versus 33 percent of adults worldwide.

• Men tend to understand finance/savings more than women, according to the same survey.

• One in three Americans has zero saved for their retirement according to a Go Banking Rates survey. Of those who have put aside funds for retirement, 23 percent have saved less than $10,000.

• Nearly half of Americans would struggle to cover a $400 emergency expense unless they borrowed from someone or sold something, according to this Federal Reserve report.

• Some 44 million Americans owe $1.3 trillion in student debt. The average student has over $37,000 in school debt. This link offers more depth.

• The median credit card debt per American household sits at $2,300 according to this report. The average is closer to $5,700.

• $935.6 billion is the amount of total credit card debt in America, according to a 2015 Federal Reserve report. Time wrote on the news in this article.

• This number has grown $100 billion since 2011, Time reports, but doesn’t exceed the record figure: $1.02 trillion in 2008, just before the financial crisis.

• The Global Findex Database from the World Bank found that worldwide, more people own savings accounts than before. The Global Findex Database found an increase of 20 percent of adults with bank accounts. Three years ago, 2.5 billion adults lacked a bank account for savings. In 2014, the most recent World Bank data, the number sits at 2 billion. This video offers the highlights from that report.

Reporter’s Takeaway

• Regionalize the national data by interviewing local financial experts at MBA programs in your region’s universities.

• Interview loan officers, bank officers, small business owners and man-on-the-street consumers about their savings plans.

• Speak with college students to create a regionalized response story to the college debt numbers. How do they plan to pay their debt back, and has debt impacted their study choices? The data itself is compelling, but a human response will give this story real insight and feeling.

• Interview senior citizens, also. Ensure you offer readers a full insight into how savings (and lack of savings) impacts all Americans, not just those in your age bracket.

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