Despite recent job gains, rising wages and falling unemployment, almost a quarter of Americans said they still have no emergency savings, according to an annual Bankrate.com report released Wednesday.
The number of Americans who said they have no money readily available in either a checking, savings or money market account fell to a seven-year low of 23%, down from 24% last year, the study found. The poll was conducted in June by research firm SSRS, using a national sample of 1,006 people.
"People are not making headway in savings, largely in part because they don't prioritize saving," said Greg McBride, chief financial analyst at Bankrate.com.
The percentage of Americans with some savings, but not enough to cover three months' worth of expenses, rose to 22% from 20% last year, the report said. And the percentage with enough to cover expenses for three to five months ticked up to 18%, from 17% last year. Still, only 29% of Americans have enough emergency savings to cover at least six months' of expenses — a financial planning norm. This is down from 31% in 2017.
"Despite the enormous wealth gains we have seen in the stock market and in the housing market, that wealth is very unevenly distributed," said Torsten Slok, chief international economist at Deutsche Bank in New York. That disparity, he said, is overriding any gains made in the job sector.
The median family simply has fewer resources, Mr. Slok said, pointing to a 2017 report he authored on U.S. income and wealth inequality. About a third of U.S. families have no wealth — or negative wealth — outside the value of their home. "It's obviously not good from a vulnerability perspective," he said.
But the majority of Americans don't seem to be worried about their financial situation. Sixty-two percent say they are somewhat or very comfortable with their emergency savings. Shockingly, about one in five Americans with no emergency savings at all said they felt comfortable, too.
Mr. McBride said they are kidding themselves. "In some cases, it's just denial. They've never been out of work, had a big medical expense or experienced a significant event that threatened their emergency savings."
More highlights from the report:
• Lower-income households are more likely to have no emergency savings, but 27% of the lowest-income households have accumulated enough savings to cover at least three months' expenses, suggesting that savings is not a function of income.
• In fact, one in four of the highest-income households either have no emergency savings or just enough to cover fewer than three months' expenses.
• Thirty percent of younger boomers, those aged 54 to 63, have no emergency savings — more than any other generation. As you'd expect, they are least likely to feel comfortable about their savings.
• Millennials, on the other hand, were most likely to feel very or somewhat comfortable with their emergency savings. The Northeast has the highest percentage of Americans who claim to have enough saved to cover six months of bills. The South has the lowest percentage.