Financial advisers generally recommend saving at least enough money to cover six months’ worth of expenses as a bulwark against an unexpected medical expense, other large expense or job loss—and that’s a standard that the vast majority of people fall short of reaching.
Now, you might be thinking that’s OK because as long as someone recognizes that he or she has too little savings and strives to reach that level of safety, progress is likely to be made.
The problem, however, according to a new study from Bankrate.com, is that most of the underprepared aren’t very bothered by their thin financial safety net and don’t feel any particular sense of urgency about it. In fact, they say they are comfortable with their level of emergency savings.
If that describes you—well, you’re in more danger than you think.
The results of this study can help you see how your emergency savings measure up against both expert recommendations and fellow savers (or nonsavers) in your age range. It also might encourage you to take your emergency savings fund more seriously if it makes you realize that a little more angst about your lack of savings could be a very good thing. Here are some of the key study findings…
When it comes to savings, too little is the norm. The people surveyed ranged in age from 18 years old on up. Only about 29%, overall, said that they have at least six months’ worth of emergency savings socked away in savings accounts or similar places. Another 18% said that they that have saved enough to cover three to five months’ worth of expenses, and 22% reported having saved enough to cover less than three months. Nearly a quarter—23%—said that they have saved nothing at all.
Many who should be concerned aren’t. The sad state of America’s paltry savings has been well documented, but the study revealed a shocking statistic about attitudes surrounding the issue. Although only 29% of respondents have met the 6-months’-savings recommendation, 62% said that they are comfortable (either “very” or “somewhat”) with what they’ve saved! About 14% said that they “aren’t too comfortable” and another 22% “are not comfortable at all.” They could benefit from some tips on how to build up their emergency reserves.
Older savers have more socked away—but not enough. The study revealed generational differences in emergency savings. Baby boomers are more likely than millennials to have saved enough to cover the recommended six-plus months’ worth of expenses, with 36% of the older generation achieving that benchmark, compared with just 22% of millennials. But that still leaves nearly two-thirds of boomers without even this moderate cushion saved.
Greg McBride, CFA, Bankrate’s chief financial analyst, says that people who don’t have a sense of unease about having very little saved “are kidding themselves”…and should aim for at least the full six months’ worth and develop a plan to get there. In the meantime, there’s no reason to panic—but don’t get too comfortable, either.