NEW YORK (AP) — New-found frugality and the tendency to save more may be permanent changes brought about by the recession, according to a new national survey released on Friday.
The survey conducted for Citigroup Inc. found that 63 percent of American consumers surveyed said the way they spend and save has been forever changed. Only one-third said spending and saving would go back to the way it was before the recession.
The random telephone survey, conducted by Hart Research Associates, included 2,005 adults interviewed between Sept. 1-5. It has a statistical margin of error of plus or minus 2.2 percent.
The survey found that around 60 percent of respondents said they would continue to cut back on everyday expenses, would save and invest more, would continue to cut down on credit-card purchases and to reduce debt.
"This new survey points to a profound shift in the way people think about their saving and spending," said Eric Eve, senior vice president of global community relations at Citi. "The current economic environment is altering, perhaps permanently, the way we think about spending money."
The survey suggested the changes are broadly distributed across all income levels and ethnic groups. More than half of the people in all income levels said they have reduced debt and postponed the purchase of a major item such as a car.
Americans earning less than $50,000 per year were most likely to cut back on everyday expenses (80 percent), followed by 76 percent for those who earn $50,000 to $75,000. But even at the top of the income scale, people are making adjustments and cutting back on everyday expenses – 70 percent for those who earn more than $150,000 and 68 percent for those who earn $75,000 to $150,000.
Nearly one-third of higher wage earners and slightly fewer – 27 percent – of those at lower pay levels said that they are thinking about postponing retirement because money is tight.
Significantly higher numbers of black and Hispanic workers said they are working longer hours to make ends meet. Forty percent of nonwhites reported this trend, compared with 21 percent of the national sample.
Those groups have sought more education to improve their employment opportunities in higher numbers with 36 percent of blacks and Hispanics reporting that they have gone back to school, compared with 21 percent of the national sample.
Blacks and Hispanics also reported that they have reduced credit-card spending more than the larger national sample with 68 percent of blacks and 66 percent of Hispanics reporting that trend, compared with 62 percent of the national sample.
About 57 percent of blacks and 45 percent of Hispanics have taken money out of savings or investments to help pay expenses, a trend reported by 42 percent of the national sample.