What's your excuse for not getting rich?

Saturday, Jan. 16
Posted 8 a.m. EST

In Bankrate's new poll, which is discussed in a podcast on the Wall Street Journal online, 70 percent of Americans say it's harder to get rich today than it used to be.

Seventy percent is big. Ten years ago, just 38 percent of Americans felt the same way. When today's survey respondents were asked if it would be easier or harder to get rich 10 years down the road, 52 percent say it will be harder and 24 percent predict it will be no different. So, the majority of the populace doesn't believe it will get any easier going forward.

Why all the pessimism? Well, we're coming off a decade when people saw their home equity and portfolios shrink. But only 11 percent say their biggest obstacle to achieving prosperity is negative equity (3 percent) or a setback in investments due to market turmoil (8 percent). The biggest obstacles are too many bills and not enough income (27 percent) and job loss or income reduction (27 percent).

I agree that for Americans who have lost their jobs or experienced pay cuts, these are huge obstacles to wealth. Our jobs are our livelihoods. Companies that lose revenues go out of business, but people must somehow sustain themselves even when they lose their jobs.

Our own worst enemy?

But I posit that we are our own obstacles to achieving prosperity if we don't take action to do so. If the problem is "too many bills and not enough income" because we overuse our credit cards, then the problem is really overspending.

What are you doing to secure your financial future? To that question, a quarter of respondents (24 percent) say they make extra payments on their mortgage principal and a third say they work more than one job or generate income through a hobby. Three-quarters say they recently cut back on purchases or avoid buying luxury goods (78 percent).

That's all good. But the best way to secure your financial future is to save consistently, such as to a retirement plan. Only about half (52 percent) of Americans say they do that, which means that roughly half do not.

Pessimism runs deep for nearly two-thirds of Americans (63 percent), who predict that it's likely they'll never get rich. But one-third believe it's very or somewhat likely that they will get rich.

I'd be willing to bet that they are among the people who say they are saving consistently. This is the surest path to prosperity, yet it seems to be the road not taken by many.

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