Americans' top financial priority may surprise you.
You might think that the financial agenda for the typical U.S. household would be led by paying down debt, or even saving. But those run a distant second and third.
The runaway winner of the title of top financial priority for the fourth consecutive year is … (drumroll) … staying current on living expenses, also known as getting caught up on the bills.
Why so many are just treading water
According to a Bankrate survey, about 4 in 10 Americans (38%) -- including every age group and all income groups except the highest-income households -- point to this at their No. 1 financial concern, a reflection of the reality of tight household budgets. Another 21% cited paying down debt as their lead priority, and 18% said savings were at the top of the list.
With many households not seeing growth in income, there isn’t a whole lot of wiggle room. While many would love to save more, the focus on just keeping their heads above water takes precedence.
Props to the millennials
On a brighter note, millennials do give a high priority to saving, which ranked a close second on their list of financial objectives.
But one rung up the age ladder, just 17% of those between the ages of 30 and 49 say they have recently put saving at the top of their financial to-do lists.
This is an indication of how tight household budgets have become and how difficult saving is once you've bought a home and are having children.