Thirty Percent of Americans Have No Plan to Pay off Their Debt

Fifth Third Bank survey reveals Americans' financial literacy

Cincinnati - Debt is a buzzword for politicians, a burden for students, a necessity for most homeowners and a reality for 70 percent of Americans. 

But despite this fact, 30 percent of those in debt have no plan to pay it off, according to a recent survey conducted by Fifth Third Bank (NASDAQ: FITB).

Fifth Third commissioned the national survey to examine the financial beliefs and behaviors of American adults. The results provided a snapshot of our nation's financial literacy, with 82 percent of respondents citing financial independence as a goal in their lives. The survey also revealed how the three largest generations in America differ in their understanding and management of savings, budgeting, retirement planning and credit. 

"At Fifth Third, we were curious to discover how knowledgeable Americans are about their personal finances," said Jada Grandy, senior vice president and Community Reinvestment Act strategies director, Fifth Third Bank. "The results of this survey give insight into financial literacy in America, as well as the needs of customers at different key stages of their lives. This knowledge arms Fifth Third with the tools to support our customers at every step on their journey to financial independence."

The survey, commissioned in recognition of National Financial Literacy Month, revealed the following insights about American financial literacy:

Americans are confident in their financial expertise.

Forty-eight percent of Americans consider themselves to be financially savvy. Based on survey questions examining financial savings and planning, many have the right to be confident. 

  • Forty-five percent of respondents know 20 percent of income should be set aside for savings.
  • More than half1 of those surveyed know an emergency fund should hold six months of living expenses.
  • Forty-six percent of Americans agree retirement savings should begin in a person's 20s.


But that knowledge isn't reflected in real-life decisions.

With high marks for understanding financial concepts, Americans have the know-how to make informed decisions. Unfortunately, they aren't applying the perceived understanding to their own finances.

  • Forty-seven percent of respondents frequently live paycheck to paycheck.
  • Two-thirds2 of Americans don't have six months of savings in their emergency fund. Thirty percent don't have an emergency fund at all.
  • More than half3 of respondents don't contribute to a 401K, IRA or other retirement plan.

Debt reflects the priorities of each generation.

One in four survey respondents feel they are in "financial hardship" from their debt. While credit card payments are the top identified debt across all age groups, the second highest debt for each generation reveals interesting insights into their priorities.

  • Thirty-nine percent of millennials have student loan debt.
  • Thirty-seven percent of Generation X respondents are paying off car loans.
  • Thirty-four percent of baby boomers are still in debt for their mortgage.


Americans aren't ready to retire.

Eighty-four percent of Americans know their retirement savings should reflect their age, expenses, standard of living and health status, yet only half4 know the exact amount of their current retirement fund. Concerning trends from each generation show retirement may be a rocky road ahead for the majority of Americans.

  • Two-thirds5 of baby boomers, those currently reaching retirement age, are in credit card debt.
  • Those on the tail end of Generation X will begin retiring in the next 15 years, but two-thirds6 don't see themselves in excellent financial standing for the milestone. 
  • Only 36 percent of millennials know how much money is saved in their retirement account.

"It's encouraging to see that Americans are generally knowledgeable about basic finance concepts," said Grandy. "However, there is a clear gap between understanding savings, budgeting and debt relief tactics and implementing them in one's life. Learning how to transfer financial management from a textbook to a personal bank account is the key to empowering oneself financially."

A leader in financial empowerment, Fifth Third Bank provides its L.I.F.E. (Lives Improved through Financial Empowerment®) programs at no cost to individuals at all ages and stages of life. 

Fifth Third's L.I.F.E. programs include:

  • Young Bankers Club®: The Fifth Third Bank Young Bankers Club introduces financial concepts to fifth-grade students, including foundational knowledge about how money is earned, budgeting and the importance of saving for the future.
  • Dave Ramsey's Foundations in Personal Finance®: Fifth Third Bank is the exclusive sponsor of this industry-leading financial curriculum for high school students in the Bank's 12-state footprint. The program is taught by school teachers who are aided on video by Dave Ramsey, one of America's most trusted financial experts, and his team. The course covers saving and budgeting, credit and debt, financial planning and insurance, and income, taxes and giving.
  • Financial Empowerment Mobiles: Traveling throughout the Bank's 12-state market, the Fifth Third Financial Empowerment Mobiles, also known as eBuses, reach individuals and neighborhoods in low- and moderate-income neighborhoods. In partnership with community organizations, the eBuses provide many services, including credit counseling, job search assistance, tax preparation, budgeting assistance and access to financial products and services.
  • Empower U®: Originally developed as a service to Fifth Third business clients for their employees, Empower U is a financial planning program that is also now available in the community. Empower U is taught by Fifth Third employee volunteers, and classroom topics include identity theft protection, college savings strategies, homeownership achievement and more.


For additional L.I.F.E. resources, including Fifth Third's Top 10 Steps to Financial Empowerment, visit https://www.53.com/life.

  1. 55 percent of respondents know how much money is recommended for an emergency fund.
  2. 69.3 percent of respondents do not have six months of living expenses saved in an emergency fund.
  3. 55.2 percent of respondents do not contribute to a 401K, IRA or other retirement plan.
  4. 49.9 percent of respondents know how much money is currently in their retirement account.
  5. 69 percent of baby boomer respondents are in credit card debt.
  6. 70 percent of Generation X respondents did not agree with the statement “I consider myself in excellent financial standing for retirement.”


About Fifth Third:

Fifth Third Bancorp is a diversified financial services company headquartered in Cincinnati, Ohio. The Company has $141 billion in assets and operates 1,254 full-service Banking Centers, including 95 Bank Mart® locations, most open seven days a week, inside select grocery stores and 2,593 ATMs in Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana, Michigan, Illinois, Florida, Tennessee, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Missouri, Georgia and North Carolina. Fifth Third operates four main businesses: Commercial Banking, Branch Banking, Consumer Lending, and Investment Advisors. Fifth Third also has an 18.3% interest in Vantiv Holding, LLC. Fifth Third is among the largest money managers in the Midwest and, as of December 31, 2015, had $297 billion in assets under care, of which it managed $26 billion for individuals, corporations and not-for-profit organizations. Investor information and press releases can be viewed at www.53.com. Fifth Third's common stock is traded on the NASDAQ® Global Select Market under the symbol "FITB." Fifth Third Bank was established in 1858. Member FDIC, Equal Housing Lender Equal Housing Lender.