A new survey of 1,600 working adults found that 30 percent of people have no emergency savings set aside for unexpected expenses, two years after Americans were forced to lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic. If the 40% of the population who are not currently employed were included, the figure would almost certainly be higher.
According to the survey, 45 percent of those with household incomes under $50,000 have no emergency savings, according to The Bipartisan Policy Center, the Funding Our Future coalition, and Morning Consult. For those with a household income of $50,000 to $100,000, the figure drops to 26%. In comparison, by October 2021, Americans had saved roughly 36% of their stimulus money.
Surprisingly, 12 percent of those earning more than $100,000 do not save for an emergency, demonstrating that financial insecurity exists even among middle-income working adults. Some of those who said “no” to having emergency savings in a checking or savings account also said they had money in a retirement account that they could access in an emergency.
One-third of working adults said they are “somewhat” or “very” concerned about their ability to pay a $400 emergency expense without using a credit card or raiding their retirement account, while 8% said they couldn’t afford it.
Further investigation revealed that 22% of Americans with emergency savings have less than $250 in their checking or savings account. Optimistically, 35% of working Americans have $1,500 or more in savings. However, this may not be sufficient to cover household expenses. Thirty percent said they could cover expenses for a month or less if they lost their job, while only 15% said they could cover expenses for a year or longer.
Another significant finding was that 42 percent of working Americans are financially insecure, either “somewhat” or “very” insecure. It’s not just that they’re unprepared for an emergency. According to the survey, 39 percent of working adults have struggled to cover personal expenses such as housing, utility bills, and groceries in the last year. As a result, 14% of those polled said they borrowed money from their retirement account or drew money from their retirement savings to cover those costs.
Borrowing against retirement may leave people short of funds as retirement approaches, given rising interest rates and a falling stock market. Similarly, using credit cards to pay for emergencies may leave them with additional bills that they cannot afford to pay.
The BPC survey proposed the idea of employer-sponsored emergency savings accounts, with funds deducted directly from employees’ paychecks, to combat financial insecurity. Working Americans were enthusiastic about this potential solution, with 61 percent saying they would contribute to it in addition to their 401(k) or other workplace retirement account.