Survey: More than half of Americans couldn’t cover three months of emergency savings spending


Even with the coronavirus recession officially declared over, a new national Bankrate poll suggests its consequences will weigh on Americans’ wallets for some time.

More than half of Americans (or 51%) have less than three months of spending covered by an emergency fund, according to the Bankrate Emergency Savings Survey of July 2021. That total includes 1 in 4 Americans (or 25%) which indicates having no emergency funds – against 21% in 2020.

Illustrating the devastating toll of the pandemic, only 1 in 6 (or 17%) say they have more money hidden in their fund to sleep well at night today than before the pandemic, while twice as much (34%) say they have less money in their savings account today.

“Americans’ emergency savings may not be in better shape after all,” says Greg McBride, CFA, chief financial analyst at Bankrate. “Only 1 in 6 households report having more emergency savings now than before the pandemic, and these are mostly high income households and those with fully funded emergency savings. “

Key points to remember:

More than half of Americans spend less than three months in an emergency fund

Few Americans have six to nine months of spending – the amount financial planners typically recommend keeping on hand – hidden in an emergency fund.

A quarter of Americans (25%) report having accumulated six months of spending in a savings account for unexpected expenses. According to the Bankrate poll, 19% say they could cover the equivalent of three to five months of their bills and living expenses with their emergency fund.

This is in addition to the 25 percent of households who report having no savings at all and 26 percent who say they have less than three months of expenses covered by an emergency account.

When it comes to demographics, young Americans haven’t saved as much as their older counterparts. More than half (or 57%) of millennials (between 25 and 40) have no emergency savings or could cover three months of expenses. This compares to 44% of Gen X respondents (aged 41 to 56) and 49% of baby boomers (aged 57 to 75). Vice versa, 30 percent of baby boomers and 29 percent of Gen Xers have enough emergency savings to cover at least six months of expenses, compared to 19 percent of millennials.

Men would also have had a better image of savings. About 2 in 5 women (or 44%) said they would not be able to cover more than three months of expenses, compared to 57% of women. Meanwhile, 27 percent of men could cover six months of expenses, compared to 23 percent of women.

People with higher incomes are more likely to have enough savings

Above all, however, income levels have proven to be the primary driver of the means Americans have to cover emergencies, with low-income Americans extremely likely to have minimal cash in their fund. emergency.

Almost half (or 49%) of households earning less than $ 30,000 per year and 27% of those earning between $ 30,000 and $ 49,999 per year have no emergency savings. This compares to 13% earning between $ 50,000 and $ 74,999 per year and 14% earning $ 75,000 or more per year.

Only 9% of the lowest-income households and 17% who earn between $ 30,000 and $ 49,999 per year have enough emergency savings to cover six months of expenses. Meanwhile, a quarter (or 25%) of those earning between $ 50,000 and $ 74,999 per year and more than 2 in 5 (43%) households earning $ 75,000 or more per year have this level of income. savings aside.

Twice as many Americans say they have less emergency savings today after pandemic

The coronavirus pandemic has taken its toll on Americans ‘savings accounts – and more likely than not, pictures of Americans’ savings have deteriorated or at least showed minimal improvement during the crisis.

Only 17 percent of U.S. adults report having more emergency savings now than before the pandemic, while twice as many (34 percent) report having less emergency savings now.

Almost half (48%) say the amount of emergency savings they currently have is unchanged from pre-pandemic levels. This total includes 6% who never had emergency savings, before and after the coronavirus crisis.

People with higher incomes were considerably better equipped to deal with the coronavirus pandemic. People earning less than $ 30,000 per year were more than 3.5 times likely to have less savings (47%) than more (13%). At the same time, households earning $ 75,000 or more per year were just as likely to have more or less (27%) in emergency savings now than before the pandemic.

These statistics correspond to other national surveys on the toll of the pandemic. The coronavirus pandemic has wiped out nearly 22.2 million jobs, most of them concentrated in the low-wage retail, tourism and hospitality sectors. According to a May 2020 Federal Reserve survey, nearly 40% of the country’s poorest households, those earning less than $ 40,000 a year, have been hit by unemployment.

Americans are almost divided on how comfortable they are with their current emergency savings levels

Overall, households are very divided on their level of security about their emergency savings levels, with 51% feeling comfortable and 48% uncomfortable.

Low-income Americans would rather have more money stashed away for emergencies, according to the Bankrate poll. More than a third (or 35%) of households earning less than $ 50,000 per year say they are satisfied with their level of emergency savings, compared to 62% of those earning more than $ 50,000 per year.

Young Americans are also worried about their savings rate. More than half of millennials (55%) are uncomfortable with their level of emergency savings, compared to 46% of Gen Xers and 48% of Baby Boomers.

Unsurprisingly, the more Americans report hiding, the more comfortable they feel with their savings levels. People without any emergency savings were eight times more likely to feel uncomfortable with their savings rates (41%) than those who could cover at least six months of expenses (5%) or at least 3 at five months (17%).

What it means for you

If the coronavirus pandemic has shown anything, it’s that emergencies can arise without notice, from job loss to medical bills. Having sufficient emergency funds is prudent financial management that can help you sleep well at night and survive those unexpected expenses.

If you’re still trying to build your emergency fund, consider automating your savings contributions to simplify the process. And when it comes to fitting those contributions into your budget, take a look at your non-essential and essential purchases to see if there are any areas you can narrow down.

“It takes time to build up a sufficient emergency savings cushion equivalent to at least 6 months of spending, and in part because what constitutes 6 months of spending is itself a moving target of early adulthood. in middle age, ”says McBride. “This is why the habit of saving – by direct deposit or direct deposit – is so important, because it represents the way forward to build up a comfortable savings cushion over time.”


This study was carried out for Bankrate by telephone by SSRS on its Omnibus survey platform. The SSRS Omnibus is a national, weekly, dual frame, bilingual telephone survey. Interviews were conducted from June 22 to 27, 2021 with a sample of 1,009 respondents in English (973) and Spanish (36). Telephone interviews were conducted by landline (202) and mobile (807, including 542 without a landline). The margin of error for the total number of respondents is +/- 3.74% at the 95% confidence level. All SSRS Omnibus data is weighted to represent the target population.

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