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The Takeaway: Americans Okay With Their Overspending


It seems a lot of Americans are okay with spending beyond their means from time to time. A new survey conducted by COUNTRY Financial found 52 percent of respondents periodically spend more than they earn in a given month. Yet only 9 percent believe their lifestyle is more than they can afford.

At first blush, that doesn't seem terribly shocking; some months bring more travel, medical expenses, social outings and/or household expenditures than others. [Whether it's financially prudent or not, I can't say I've never used credit cards to cover extra spending one month, only to cut back- and pay off that card!-in the following month or two.]

But it seems many folks don't balance out the overspending part of the equation with the cutting back part. About one-fifth (21 percent) of respondents said they spend beyond their monthly income at least six months per year, and yet few in this group adjusted the next month's spending to get finances back on track. Instead, they covered extra expenses by:

  • Using money from a savings account (36.2 percent)
  • Using a credit card (21.7 percent)
  • Delaying bill payments (12.3 percent)
  • Borrowing money (7.8 percent)

There's a "perception gap" between how individuals view their finances and their actual spending habits, said Keith Brannan, vice president of financial security planning for COUNTRY. "Exceeding your monthly income does happen. Look for ways to adjust your spending for the next month so you are living within your means."

Looking at just older adults:

  • About 28 percent of 50 to 64 year olds said their monthly spending exceeds monthly income "a few months per year." Sixteen percent said this happens half or more than half the time, and 3 percent said it happens almost every month.
  • For those 65 and older, 27 percent fell into the occasional overspending category. Thirteen percent said they spend more than their monthly income about half or more than half the time; only 1.6 percent said this happens most months.

Friday Quick Hits:

  • Few states have been successful in moving low-income seniors and disabled people out of long-term care and back into the community (despite lots of federal money going toward these efforts), according to Kaiser Health News.
  • And in other news from across the Atlantic: It seems seniors in Britain feel more isolated, have less opportunities to socialize and suffer from more long-term health conditions than older adults in other European countries. A poll from across the EU also found stark differences in attitudes toward aging, with people in Britain considered "old" almost a decade before they would be in the Netherlands.

Photo: Britt Erlanson/Taxi/Getty Images

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