A greater emphasis on financial responsibility has certainly been on the minds of millions of Americans since the economic downturn hit. But while many have made serious strides, it seems that a large number are still struggling to get their feet under them. This may be especially true when it comes to building up a solid emergency savings fund.
Today, 29 percent of Americans say they have no emergency savings funds at all, up from 26 percent in 2014 to the highest level observed since 2010, according to a new survey from Bankrate. In addition, 21 percent say they don't have enough savings to cover three months' worth of expenses, and 13 percent don't know how much savings they have at all or didn't want to answer.
"These results are further evidence that Americans remain woefully under-saved for unplanned expenses," says Greg McBride, CFA, Bankrate's chief financial analyst. "And rather than progressing, (Americans) are moving in the wrong direction. Nothing helps you sleep better at night than knowing you have money tucked away for a rainy day."
Are there any positives?
Meanwhile, about 2 out of every 9 consumers say that they have enough emergency savings to cover their costs for six months should something go wrong, the report said. That number is important, because experts generally advise that this is the bare minimum people should have in savings to adequately protect themselves.
But at the same time, it seems that many Americans are actually moving in the right direction with their money overall, as the national Financial Security Index has been north of the benchmark of 100 for each of the last 13 months, the report said. This comes as the economy has added hundreds of thousands of jobs in the last month alone, and wages rose 2.3 percent on an annual basis.
A closer look at the numbers
There are a number of trends that emerge when looking at this data, and none of them should be particularly surprising, the report said. For instance, people over the age of 50 were far more likely to have at least six months' worth of expenses saved up than their millennial counterparts, but that's because they've had a few extra decades to build up a reasonable cushion. But interestingly, those under the age of 30 were the most likely to have between three and five months' worth of savings.
Likewise, consumers with higher incomes were more likely to have more money in savings, the report said. Those making less than $30,000 per year had no savings 53 percent of the time, but just one income level up (between $30,000 and $49,999) the number was half that. This was also true of people with higher education levels. Those with college degrees were twice as likely to have significant savings.
The more people are able to commit to saving, though, the better off they're likely to be going forward. Additional savings can help them pay down balances that may be hurting their financial flexibility, and allow them to devote even more to savings accounts in the future.