Currently, only 55% of Americans are reaping the benefits of stock ownership, even though the stock market's reaching record highs. That's probably in large part because for many, the world of investing seems complex and hard to navigate, or they don't believe they have the time to successfully manage a portfolio. So easy-to-use financial tools, like savings accounts, have become many Americans' primary way to earn interest on their money. They're especially common among lower-income households that are less likely to have a financial education or the means to pay an advisor. But what many don't realize is that savings accounts are subject to taxes that make it hard for savings to grow.
Indeed, while disappointing, it's not surprising that Congress punishes smart savers by taxing their savings accounts relentlessly. Though banks are only required to send you a 1099-INT tax form if you earned more than $10 of interest in an account, Uncle Sam expects you to pay taxes on every penny of interest you earn. Money that could go toward savings or groceries is instead siphoned off to Washington. This hinders the ability of the 120 million American households with savings accounts to build wealth. It's time to end taxes on money earned in savings accounts.
And what is the government doing with your money, anyway? All manner of things. Beyond the necessary costs of running a government, your tax dollars are also subsidizing things like stipends to soldiers in the Somali national army and the study of the sexual habits of quails on cocaine. It's an understatement that the American people would be better off keeping this money in their own pockets.
This is especially true at a time when nearly 70% of Americans have less than $1000 in savings. Those extra dollars could go a long way in helping folks make ends meet. And in a world where politicians are proposing giving away "free money," it seems logical to cut out the middleman and simply stop taking it to begin with. Many other proposals for lowering taxes are criticized as being overly friendly to the wealthy. But savings accounts are a tool for the masses. So eliminating this tax is a win for everyone.
Though the average savings account only yields 0.09% interest, many banks are well above that number. Digital banks like Ally and Marcus, for example, have offered as high as 2.2% in the last year. That means it's easier than ever to make money in a fully insured, risk-free account. And Americans would be free to spend or save their money how they see fit. Indeed, CBS has reported that "a $500 surprise expense would put most Americans into debt." Money earned in accounts that act as safety nets for families shouldn't go to line the pockets of politicians and bureaucrats or to examine the sex lives of drugged-up quail. This is an opportunity for American politicians to do the right thing by removing an unnecessary tax.
Of course, nixing the tax isn't a cure-all for the American personal finance crisis. We need better financial education so that more Americans can overcome their fear and misunderstanding of the stock market. Investing for the future, and being equipped with the knowledge of how to do so, should be a cornerstone of what it means to build the American dream.
And in the meantime, eliminating the tax on savings account interest can help mitigate the financial pressure and squeeze that many are feeling. American families work hard to save money. We want to be stable, successful and upwardly mobile. Low-income households deserve the chance to build wealth. Middle America deserves an opportunity to accumulate wealth. And everyone deserves to have their savings protected.
Politicians should be encouraging smart saving, not picking our pockets at the first opportunity.