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How would you spend your savings?

Almost 4 in 10 Americans pick home ownership.

Building a nest egg is not easy. In fact, in 2019 the median household savings account had $4,830 in it.It’s little wonder then that if parting with their hard-earned cash, a top priority for 37% of American adults is putting a down payment on a home, according to a survey conducted by Finder.

The next most common reason to dig into savings is to pay down debt, with 18.70% saying they’d use savings toward a credit card balance. Rounding out the top three reasons is buying a car, with 16.09% saying the purchase of a car is good use of savings.

What’s not high on the priority list right now? Unsurprisingly, it’s travel, with only 3.60% of Americans saying they’d use their savings for a vacation. Also low on the list is a dream wedding, with only 4.24% of Americans saying nuptials are worth an account withdrawal.

Types of spendingMost popular ways to spend savings
Down payment for a home36.88%
Credit card debt18.70%
Buying a new car16.09%
Student loan debt7.90%
Medical debt4.30%
Dream wedding4.24%

Women more likely than men to reach into savings for a down payment

Men and women agree on the top three reasons to dig into a savings account, though the order of priorities and their degree of value shifts between the genders.

Both genders say putting a down payment on a home is their preference for spending their savings, with 38.76% of women choosing it as the top reason versus 34.71% of men. Paying off a credit card is second priority for men at 22.72% but third priority for women at 15.20%, and buying a car the second most common choice for women (15.64%) but the third most likely choice for men (16.60%).

Bucking a long-held gender stereotype, men are more likely than women shell out their savings on a dream wedding, with 4.00% of men saying it’s a top priority versus 3.58% of women — making it the lowest priority for women. Travel is lowest on the list for men, with only 3.00% willing to splurge on a trip.

Types of spendingMenWomen
Down payment for a home34.71%38.76%
Credit card debt22.72%15.20%
Buying a new car16.60%15.64%
Student loan debt6.37%9.23%
Medical debt4.24%4.34%
Dream wedding4.99%3.58%

Down payment on a home a top priority, no matter your age

When looking across age groups, buying a home is the No. 1 reason to dig into a savings account, the group most likely to do so between the ages of 35 and 44 (43.79%).

People ages 45 to 54 are most likely to dip into their savings to pay down credit card debt (20.71%), with ages 25 to 34 most likely to pay down student loan debt (12.83%) and ages 18 to 24 most likely to pay for a dream wedding (6.76%) with their savings.

The over-65 crowd is the group most likely to use their savings to buy a new car (24.73%), pay off medical debt (6.71%) or travel (5.30%).

Age groupDown payment for a homeCredit card debtBuying a new carStudent loan debtMedical debtDream weddingTravelOther
Ages 18-2441.22%12.84%15.54%11.49%4.05%6.76%2.03%6.08%
Ages 25-3440.79%19.08%12.50%12.83%4.28%4.28%1.64%4.61%
Ages 35-4443.79%19.23%8.88%9.17%3.55%4.73%3.55%7.10%
Ages 45-5434.62%20.71%17.46%7.10%2.66%4.14%3.85%9.47%
Ages 55-6431.83%19.61%18.33%4.50%4.82%4.18%4.50%12.22%
Ages 65+30.39%17.31%24.73%3.89%6.71%2.47%5.30%9.19%

Region priorities: Same, but different

Whether you’re from Midwest, Northeast, South or West, the top reason for taking money out of savings is for a down payment on a home, with those in the South most likely to do so at 37.89%. Southerners are also most likely to use their savings to buy a new car at 17.13% and pay down medical debt at 6.59%.

The Northeast is home to the highest percentage of those who’d spend their nest egg on credit card debt (22.86%). The Northeast also takes the top spot for dream wedding, with 6.86% saying it’s where they’d invest.

The West is the region most likely to put savings towards student loan debt (8.59%).

Types of spendingNortheastMidwestSouthWest
Down payment for a home36.57%36.33%37.89%36.20%
Credit card debt22.86%19.24%16.47%19.53%
Buying a new car11.43%17.09%17.13%15.10%
Student loan debt7.43%8.09%7.41%8.59%
Medical debt2.86%2.16%6.59%4.43%
Dream wedding6.86%3.78%4.12%3.91%


Our data is based on an online survey of 2,001 US adults at least 18 years old commissioned by Finder and conducted by Google Surveys on August 11 and August 12, 2020. Participants were users on websites in the Google Surveys Publisher Network and were unpaid.

We assume the participants in our surveys represent the US population of 255.2 million Americans who are at least 18 years old according to the July 2019 US Census Bureau population estimate. This assumption is made at the 95% confidence level with a 2.19% margin of error.

Our survey asked respondents what they’d rather spend their savings on from seven selections:

  • Down payment for a home
  • Credit card debt
  • Buying a new car
  • Student loan debt
  • Dream wedding
  • Medical debt
  • Other

The most common write-in response for “Other” was travel and vacation, which accounted for 30.2% of all “Other” responses. We refer to this as “Travel” in our analysis, and recalculated “Other” to exclude responses about travel and vacation.

We define geographical regions as defined by the US Census Bureau.

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For all media inquiries, please contact:

Richard Laycock, Insights editor and senior content marketing manager


/in/richardlaycock/ /aleksvee/

Richard Laycock's headshot
Senior editorial manager

Richard Laycock is Finder’s NYC-based senior content marketing manager & insights editor, spending the last decade data diving, writing and editing articles about all things personal finance. His musings can be found across the web including on NASDAQ, MoneyMag, Yahoo Finance and Travel Weekly. Richard studied Media at Macquarie University, including a semester abroad at The Missouri School of Journalism (MIZZOU). See full bio

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