Nearly 70 million people in America do not have any emergency savings to withstand a sudden financial blow and about 53 million, or 22 percent, only have enough to hang on for a month, according to a new survey from NeighborWorks America.
Forty percent of consumers say that their cash reserves would last as long as three months, and 28 percent expect their emergency fund to hold them over for a year. In all, sixty-eight percent of consumers say that they’re setting money aside in case of a financial emergency.
“These data have to light a fire under all of us who want to see Americans better able to withstand a financial crisis, especially a recession as devastating as the one we’re climbing out of now,” said Eileen M. Fitzgerald, NeighborWorks America CEO, in a statement. “Our survey underscores the need to provide better tools and information for people to manage the money they do have in order to build a strong financial base.”
The results were released by the organization to call attention to the fragility of many families’ finances nearly five years since the end of the Great Recession and assess consumers’ interest in nonprofit resources to help them build financial stability.
The survey also examined the savings goals of Americans. Retirement and buying a home are the top savings goals at 28 percent and 13 percent, respectively, with just five percent of consumers saying that they are currently saving to create a buffer in case of a financial emergency.
Among those surveyed nationally, 29 percent of adults report no emergency savings; of these 43 percent of African-American and 39 percent of Hispanic adults said that they had no emergency savings.
As might be expected, the survey results bore out that the more income a person has, the more likely they are to have built an emergency fund. Just 11 percent of people making $100,000 or more per year said that they had no emergency fund, while 52 percent of people earning less than $40,000 said that they had no such reserve. People whose income places them squarely in the middle class also are financially vulnerable, with 24 percent of adults with income between $40,000 and 59,000 holding no emergency fund.
“In today’s marketplace, everyone, including those with limited incomes, can set aside some savings for emergencies and work to achieve other financial goals,” said Fitzgerald. “We are seeing great results for consumers who use a financial coach to help them start saving, reduce debt and work toward financial goals.”
NeighborWorks, a leading housing and community development organization, delivers many of its programs and services through a network of 235 independent, community-based nonprofit organizations serving communities nationwide.
It offers comprehensive training and other services for nonprofit professionals to develop and scale financial-capability programs in their communities. The network organizations offer services to help alter these trends, with establishing emergency savings plans being just one component of a full-service financial coaching and individual financial-capability effort.
Results from a recent national demonstration project had positive results. The program saw 57 percent of the people who started with zero savings establish a habit of savings, while 48 percent of the people in the program who already had a savings habit increased the amount set aside for emergencies and other goals.