The Dow Jones industrial average in recent days has ended a surge that the markets hadn’t seen in 17 years.
For some, it was one more sign that the nation’s economy may be continuing to move along the road to recovery. Industry watchers said the Dow’s ascension, which started at close to 14,254 on March 5 and peaked at 14,514 on March 15, was fueled by several factors, including a spike in gas prices.
Investors may have either been spooked by the record rise or made some adjustments to their portfolio mix.
For credit union members, who tend to err on the side of conservative, the Dow’s increase might have aligned with their savings, which were up in January, according to CUNA Mutual Group’s March Credit Union Trends Report.
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The timing of the Dow’s record movement coincides with the latest update from an initiative between CU Solutions Group and SaveUp. According to the Michigan Credit Union League & Affiliates, which owns CU Solutions Group, SaveUp is a free rewards program that encourages consumers to make positive changes to their financial behaviors.
More than 40 credit unions have signed on with SaveUp since the alliance launched six months ago.
Every time members contribute to their savings or retirement accounts, pay down their credit cards, mortgages or other loans or engage with SaveUp’s financial education content, they earn credits they can use to win prizes from sponsors such as Virgin America, Banana Republic and GameStop, as well as a $2 million jackpot, CUSG said.
For the $737 million Northeast Credit Union in Portsmouth, N.H., SaveUp has served several roles particularly with certain member niches and their spending and long-term planning goals, said Andrea Pruna, vice president of marketing at Northeast.
“SaveUp is a great innovative tool to engage with the Gen Y market, reward positive member behavior and help plan our marketing tactics using its incredibly useful data reports,” Pruna said.
Unlike their baby boomer counterparts, Gen X and Gen Y have a bit more time to plan for retirement. To target these younger members, SaveUp recently released its first U.S. Consumer Savings and Debt Report with its major findings focused on the financial habits of Gen X and Gen Y.
With Gen X, average mortgage debt was $181,706, which was 21% above the U.S. average. Average student loan debt and credit card debt were $44,270 and $8,801, respectively.
Gen Y had less debt averages, according to SaveUp. The average mortgage debt was more than $161,000, which was 7.5% above the U.S. average. Average student loan debt and credit card debt were $40,273 and $4,113, respectively.
“Our recent data report shows that young people are bearing a disproportionate share of the country’s non-asset debt, and if credit unions can engage younger Americans to offer them better terms, and longer term financial services, there is a real benefit to all sides,” said Priya Haji, CEO and co-founder of SaveUp.
Meanwhile, despite the Dow’s winning streak and more consumers paying down debt, retiring comfortably remains elusive for some.
According to the Employee Benefit Research Institute’s Retirement Confidence Survey, released on March 19, the percentage of workers confident about having enough money for a comfortable retirement is essentially unchanged from the record lows observed in 2011.
While more than half expressed some level of confidence, with 13% being very confident and 38% somewhat confident of being able to afford a comfortable retirement, 21% were not too confident, and 28% were not at all confident. The latter figure is the highest level of those not at all confident recorded during the 23 years of the survey, EBRI said.
One reason that retirement confidence has remained low despite a brightening economic outlook is that some workers may be waking up to just how much they may need to save, according to EBRI.
Asked how much they believe they will need to save to achieve a financially secure retirement, a striking number of workers cited large savings targets: 20% said they need to save between 20% to 29% of their income and 23% indicated they need to save 30% or more.
“Aggressive as those savings targets appear to be, they may not be based on a careful analysis of their individual circumstances,” said Jack VanDerhei, EBRI research director and co-author of the report. “Only 46% report they and/or their spouse have tried to calculate how much money they will need to have saved by the time they retire so that they can live comfortably in retirement.”