Americans: world's worst savers
Among developed countries, Americans are the most cash-strapped people.
NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) - Americans are among the world's most cash-strapped people, according to the latest semi-annual survey from ACNielsen released Tuesday.
Nearly a quarter (22 percent) 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. The United States is neck and neck with Portugal.
"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 percent.
Others in the top 10 for most cash-strapped countries included Canada, No. 3, at 19 percent, the United Kingdom (No. 4, 17 percent) and France (No. 5, 16 percent).
In contrast, only 3 percent of respondents in Thailand were not able to save money.
Some good news for Americans -- the results were an improvement from six months earlier, when 28 percent of those surveyed had nothing left at the end of the month.
Nielsen suggests an attitude change may explain the improvement -- 42 percent of Americans (up from 33 percent) 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 percent of those surveyed said they have cut down on take-away meals; 61 percent have turned down the thermostat to save on gas and electricity; 61 percent have cut back on home entertainment; 54 percent on new clothes; and 47 percent do less driving.
CNNMoney.com columnist Jeanne Sahadi reports one expert claims that many young Americans have never had it so hard financially. Hard to believe? Click here for that story.
But some of us have too much money. What are the signs of that? Click here to find out.