Two troubling items crossed my desk this morning that conflict with the tremendous gains that we’ve been witnessing from the U.S. equity markets. Bankrate has once again conducted their survey on the financial health of the American family, and the picture hasn’t improved from when we first reported on this topic several years ago.
Unfortunately, 61% of Americans would not be able to pay a $1,000 emergency expense with savings. Most would have to rely on credit, family/friends, or a personal loan to meet this unexpected outlay. This analysis mirrors another conducted by the U.S. Federal Reserve that indicated that 44% of Americans would not be able to meet a $400 emergency payment.
The other piece of information that is troubling is the fact that the U.S. savings rate has declined (2.4%) to the third lowest level in recorded history, and it is now back to 2005 levels. The U.S. economy is consumer-driven with roughly 70% of GDP coming from individual consumption. We do know that revolving credit has exceeded the all-time record (8/17), and it now stands at more than $1.1 trillion. The previous record was established in April 2008. Notice that both “records” cited above either correspond with or just precede the great financial crisis.
The wonderful stock market returns are not enjoyed by a good chunk of the American public, and these stellar results mask what is happening in the broader economy. According to Gallop, only 52% of U.S. adults owned stock in 2016. This is the second-lowest reading since Gallup started measuring this in 1998. These figures include ownership of an individual stock, a stock mutual fund or a self-directed 401(k) or IRA.