A PENNY SAVED

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Perhaps as a result of the faltering economy, consumers today are more conscious than ever of the power of their pocket change, according to findings from a recent study of saving habits. The sixth annual Coinstar National Currency Poll found that more than a third of Americans are using more cash than credit this year compared with last year.

The telephone study of a nationally representative sample of 1,000 adults was conducted on behalf of Coinstar, Inc., by Media, Pa.-based International Communications Research in December 2002. Coinstar, based in Bellevue, Wash., owns a network of 10,000 change-counting machines installed in supermarkets in the U.S., Canada and the United Kingdom.

The study found that younger Americans appreciate the power of their small change. More than half (54 percent) of 18- to 34-year-olds say they value their pocket change more than they did the year before, compared with less than half (47 percent) of 45- to 54-year-olds and 36 percent of those 55 to 64.

Even the lowly penny has earned some respect. Though its inflation-adjusted value continues to shrink, the Coinstar poll found that public support for the almost worthless coin has actually grown. Two years ago, the study found that 32 percent of Americans believed that it was time to eliminate the copper coin; now only 23 percent support the penny's discontinuation.

Support for the one-cent coin, however, varies by region and gender. Women, interestingly, are more attached to the ole penny than are men: While 28 percent of men say that the penny should be taken out of circulation, just 18 percent of women agree. Northeasterners are the most anxious to shed their wallets of pennies. Almost a third (30 percent) of them want to be rid of copper, compared with 20 percent of those living in the West.

However, Northeasterners and Westerners agree that a penny lost is a penny wasted: Three-quarters of those in each region (74 percent) say they'd pick up a penny off the street if they saw one. But Southerners just may be the biggest money-grubbers of them all: 86 percent say they would bend down to retrieve a penny that they saw on the ground.

But on a more serious note, Americans are very concerned about whether the next generation will embrace the notion that a penny saved is a penny earned. According to the Coinstar study, nearly 9 in 10 parents (89 percent) favor schools adopting a financial literacy program or curriculum, as long as they themselves aren't expected to bear the cost. (Just 48 percent of parents report that their child's school currently has such a program in place.)

Parents also think that their children should start learning the value of money early on: More than half (52 percent) say that money management lessons should begin in elementary school, and 14 percent believe such lessons should begin in kindergarten or before. Only 6 percent of respondents think that educators should wait until high school to teach students about fiscal responsibility.

But moms and dads have different opinions about when their kids should start learning the value of a penny. Although 17 percent of women say financial literacy instruction should begin in kindergarten or earlier, only 10 percent of men agree. The same share of men also believes that it's fine to wait until high school for lessons in fiscal responsibility, compared with 3 percent of women who feel the same.


For more information on the Coinstar National Currency Poll, call Jessica Taylor at (305) 533-1111. General questions about Coinstar should be directed to (800) 928-2274.

PAPER OR PLASTIC?

Thirty-six percent of Americans say that they are using cash more today than they did a year ago. Of those, almost half (48 percent) say it's because they are concerned about accumulating credit card debt.

OF AMERICANS WHO SAY THEY USE MORE CASH (THAN CREDIT) TODAY COMPARED WITH A YEAR AGO, PERCENT WHO GIVE THE FOLLOWING REASONS WHY:

OVERALL MEN WOMEN AGES 18-34 AGES 35-44 AGES 45-54 AGES 55-64
I am concerned about accumulating credit card debt 48% 44% 51% 44% 53% 48% 54%
It helps control my spending/manage my budget 46% 47% 44% 32% 59% 49% 61%
It is more convenient for me 46% 48% 44% 43% 61% 31% 58%
I am concerned about privacy 35% 40% 31% 24% 41% 29% 55%
I do not currently have a credit card 25% 26% 25% 20% 22% 37% 35%
Source: Coinstar, Inc.
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