KAI RYSSDAL: We’re not the first ones to tell you Americans are spenders, not savers. A survey out today shows just 40 percent of us have separate savings to cover unexpected bills. And so we find ourselves at the beginning of something called America Saves Week. Marketplace’s John Dimsdale has more on the program to encourage us to be more financially prepared.
JOHN DIMSDALE: The young, the poor and minorities are least likely to have an emergency savings account. And Stephen Brobeck of the Consumer Federation of America says that just puts them more in the hole.
STEPHEN BROBECK: It’s not good for tens of millions of American households who are living day to day, and when they have an emergency expenditure, often have to take out a pay-day loan, at perhaps 300, 400 percent annual percentage rate. Or run up their credit card debt.
The America Saves coalition is encouraging every American to set aside some amount — even if it’s only $500 — for emergencies. Among the coalition partners: the Department of Defense.
Barbara Thompson is the director of the department’s Office of Family Policy.
BARBARA THOMPSON: When our service members get into financial difficulty, it can dramatically affect critical decision making and attention on the job, family quality of life and ultimately our mission readiness. In fact, we equate financial readiness to mission readiness.
The coalition has found one hurdle for savers is the $4 or $500 minimum balance to maintain a savings account. The America Saves coalition has enlisted several hundred banks and credit unions around the country that will waive the minimum balance for low-income families who start regular deposits.
In Washington, I’m John Dimsdale for Marketplace.
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