News Briefs: One-Fifth Of Americans Report Having No Savings Each Month

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A new survey has found that one-fifth of Americans have no savings at all after bills are paid. The ACNeilsen survey has found that nearly a quarter (22%) of Americans have no money left once they've paid for their essential living expenses and spent their discretionary dollars.

That puts the United States at the top of a list of 42 countries for saving futility in the survey, with the U.S. tying Portugal at the 22% threshold. Others in the top 10 for most cash-strapped countries included Canada, No. 3 at 19%, the United Kingdom (No. 4 at 17%) and France (No. 5 at 16%). In contrast, only 3% of respondents in Thailand were not able to save money.

There is some good news:the results were an improvement from six months earlier, when 28% of those surveyed had nothing left at the end of the month. "Americans are legendary for incurring debt," said Tom Markert, Nielsen's chief marketing officer. The survey is conducted online and has a margin of error of about plus or minus 3.1%.

Nielsen said in its analysis that an attitude change may explain the improvement- 42% of Americans (up from 33%) now list debt repayment as their first priority for spare cash.

"One factor for the increased emphasis consumers are placing on paying off debts and building savings may be the new bankruptcy law that went into effect in October 2005, making it more difficult for people to simply walk away from their debts," Markert said.

In addition, Americans are saving more cash by curtailing some of their discretionary spending. Nielsen reports that 66% of those surveyed said they have cut down on take-away meals; 61% have turned down the thermostat to save on gas and electricity; 61% have cut back on home entertainment; 54% on new clothes, and 47% do less driving.

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