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Consumer studies aren’t based on reality every time

Sometimes it is obvious when the number crunchers don’t have a grip on the reality of whatever it is they’re studying. A recent report by Consumer Affairs is just such an example. According to its researchers, if an average Ohio resident lost his or her source of income, it would take 102.9 days for that person to go broke, after having burned through savings.

If you’re not laughing yet, there’s more.

Consumer Affairs says the average American has $9,647 in savings; and that, therefore, the average American would exhaust his or her savings within approximately three months. But because cost of living is lower in Ohio, Consumer Affairs suggests the savings would stretch about ten days longer.

The study does not, however, say how much the average Ohioan has in savings. Meanwhile, researchers took things a step further and said on average, an unexpected expense would reduce the number of days before going broke. If 91 days is the baseline, the study suggests it could be reduced to as few as 62.7 days after an ER visit; or 85.7 days for a car battery replacement.

Too many readers looking at those figures are likely thinking just one unexpected expense would wipe out what little (if any) savings they have right now. Certainly it is encouraging to know Ohio has a low enough cost of living that, should one be fortunate enough to have nearly $10,000 in savings, there would be almost 103 days worth of wiggle room … assuming frugal living and nothing unexpected.

But that’s not reality, and we must hope there aren’t any policymakers reading this particular study thinking, “Wow, we’re in better shape than I thought.”

“Saving as much as possible and living in a low-cost area are the most effective ways to hedge against a sudden loss of income due to job turnover or a recession,” Consumer Affairs concludes.

Wonderful. But these same researchers also report 30 percent of people rate their financial wellbeing to be “good,” and 22 percent consider it to be “excellent.” They surveyed 1,048 Americans for the study.

In reading it, it doesn’t take long to understand they must not have talked to anyone from Appalachian Ohio.

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