Forget the white picket fence, is this today’s American Dream?

FAN Editor

Economic uncertainty has many Americans feeling increasingly unstable about their financial future, which includes retirement. 

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According to a new survey, despite the seemingly healthy job market and recent record runs on Wall Street, 60 percent of Americans believe we are on the brink of a financial crisis, vs. thinking the current economy is strong. The survey, conducted by PurePoint® Financial, a division of MUFG Union Bank, N.A., took a look at how Americans today define the “American Dream.”

“Sometimes in the face of uncertainty, people tend to freeze and not take any action at all,” said Pierre P. Habis, president of PurePoint Financial. “The best advice I can give people is to always plan for tomorrow by saving what you can, ideally at least 10 percent of your income. But even if you can’t put that much aside, set up a system to save a set amount each month. Prioritizing saving on a regular basis can make all the difference.”

Habis discussed with Fox Business the following tips for those Americans concerned about the future of our economy and its impact on your retirement.

Boomer: What can Baby Boomers nearing retirement learn from committed savers?

Habis: There is a lot we can all learn from committed savers – first and foremost, they are disciplined about savings. Whether it’s five dollars or five thousand dollars, they prioritize saving every month or every paycheck, usually via direct deposit. Committed savers also tend to save for a specific goal or life event, rather than a general emergency fund.

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They’re also mindful of how they spend money – they set budgets and cut out little things like eating out for lunch, because they know those expenses can add up quickly. Committed savers also shop around for the best rates. It’s important to check your statement; if you’re not earning at least 1% on your savings account, then you’re leaving money on the table.

Boomer: Being more burdened today from day-to-day expenses than five years ago, what can we do to better prepare for retirement?

Habis: First of all, it’s important to have a plan for retirement and understand how much you will need to retire. We were surprised to find in our survey that 52% of Americans don’t have any money saved in a retirement account.

Secondly, you need to prioritize saving. That may mean revisiting your monthly budget and spending less so you can save more. It also means that you should be putting money into savings every month before you pay your bills. It’s much easier to pay yourself first and adjust your spending rather than trying to save at the end of the month.

Boomer: According to the survey results, how is the American dream different today than it was in the past?

Habis: We were surprised to see so many people – 71% of our respondents –  in PurePoint Financial’s “The State of Savings in America” survey define the American Dream as “not having to live paycheck to paycheck.” Today, the dream is less about owning the home with a white picket fence and sending your kids to college and more about keeping your head above water. The Great Recession is still fresh in many people’s minds and many are still digging themselves out of debt, so how they define success has changed.

Boomer: What advice can you give to Boomers who feel we are on the brink of another financial crisis?

Habis: It’s always important to be prepared for tomorrow. Of course you want to have investments and retirement accounts in place, but you also want to be sure to have liquid savings that you can access quickly if needed. Traditional savings accounts and CDs are FDIC insured, so they come with that added peace of mind.

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