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If hit by an unexpected $1,000 emergency, 66 percent of Americans are unprepared to cover the cost, a poll by Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found.
The study spanned all levels of incomes. Three-quarters of those in households making less than $50,000 per year, two-thirds of households earning $50,000 to $100,000, and 38 percent of those making over $100,000 are unprepared for a sudden $1,000 need.
If faced with such a crisis, The Associated Press reported: “A third [of Americans] said they would have to borrow from a bank or from friends and family, or put the bill on a credit card. Thirteen percent would skip paying other bills, and 11 percent said they would likely not pay the bill at all.”
As for those who would reduce spending to raise money for the bill, CBS stated, “Americans said dining out would be the first place they would cut back, while only one-third said they would be very or somewhat likely to cut spending on alcohol.”
“In the face of trying times, Americans may not want to imagine giving up that glass of wine or beer while contemplating a growing stack of bills,” the news outlet said.
A Google Consumer Survey poll revealed that 37 percent of Americans have savings accounts with either a zero-dollar balance or the minimum balance requirement. Another 21 percent do not have a savings account at all.
Yet financial hardship typically occurs to six out of 10 Americans per year, according a Pew Charitable Trusts study, mostly resulting from major car repairs and lost income.
Economists believe that while Americans’ poor savings habits stemmed from the 70s and 80s (during which the value of the dollar declined at a higher rate than funds increased in interest-earning savings accounts), these have been further augmented by flat wages and a rising cost of living caused by the financial crisis of 2008.
“People are extremely vulnerable if they don’t have savings,” Caroline Ratcliffe, a senior fellow at the Urban Institute, told AP. “And it’s a cost to taxpayers as well. Lack of savings can lead to homelessness, or other problems.”