Many Americans have no emergency fund

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Below is an article that has financial relevance and I wanted to share it with you. It is written by Sheyna Steiner and posted on bankrate.com. My comments are in pink  
 
Many Americans have no emergency fund
Have Americans already forgotten the lessons learned in the financial crisis? The number of people with no money saved for emergencies has risen to 28 percent, up from 24 percent a year ago, according to Bankrate's Financial Security Index. About 1 in 5 people are slightly better off, with enough savings in an emergency fund to cover less than three months of expenses, while 42 percent of those polled say they have at least three months' worth of cash saved.
Income and education matter
 The general rule of thumb calls for enough cash to cover six months of living expenses. It depends who you ask, though. The recession prompted many financial advisers to boost that recommendation to 12 months' worth or more. Not surprisingly, earning more than $75,000 per year vastly increases the odds of hitting the minimum recommendation of six months; 45 percent of high-income earners say they've reached or surpassed that mark. Only 9 percent of these high earners say they have no rainy-day fund, compared to 52 percent of those earning less than $30,000. A college degree is also fairly predictive of emergency fund savings: 41 percent of college graduates report enough savings to cover expenses for six months or more, versus 14 percent of those with a high school education. - I believe that with or without a college degree, anyone who learns to live by or below their means can put away money towards an emergency fund. This could mean, cutting extracurricular activities for kids, taking fewer vacations, buying a less expensive car or buying a smaller house. It's all about lifestyle changes and what we're willing to give up to setting priorities.  
Saving versus paying down debt
 While Americans may be struggling to save money, the collective debt load is smaller than it was several years ago, particularly when it comes to revolving accounts such as credit cards. Between 2008 and 2010, consumers significantly paid down revolving credit accounts, according to figures from the Federal Reserve's April report on consumer credit. Rather than stocking household coffers with extra funds, consumers who are now lacking substantial emergency funds may have used extra money to service debt instead. "While the debts are down quite significantly on a household basis from prior years' levels and the households are much better off, I believe that this drop in debts came at the expense of savings," says Robert Fuest, chief operating officer and head of investment research at Landor & Fuest Capital Managers in New York.  - This is true for a lot of households. While paying down debt has minimized the amount of savings, it is and always have been a tough call. Interest rates on savings have basically diminished to an average of .25 percent (less than 1%.) The interest rate we pay on our credit cards average 15-20%. While the banks are paying us less than 1% for our money, we are paying them 15- 20 % for their money. It is basically a no brainer to pay off our debt: at the expense of our savings. Now that debt loads are lighter, the new challenge is to build up savings to avoid falling back into a cycle of debt.  
Breaking Bad Habits
Consumers are constantly barraged by marketing, none of which espouse living below your means and managing money responsibly. "Many Americans used debt to fund about 20 percent of their lifestyle choices. They were running cash-flow negative, in essence," Fuest says. - This is financial suicide at every angle. Living below our means and forgetting about the Jonses is one way to avoid this financially destructive behavior. Don't charge it on your credit card if you can't pay it in full the next month( This does not apply to people that have lost their job and have no emergency fund.) If you are employed, and are charging groceries on a credit card without being able to pay it off the next month, then it's time to make some lifestyle changes.
Scaling back spending doesn't happen overnight, particularly in a society where the economy is powered by ever-increasing consumer demand. It can take some time to change the mindset that leads to overspending, but there's an easy shortcut to boosting savings: automation. "If you have an employer that can split out the amount that you are taking home and force-feed savings into an account that is out of sight and out of mind, I think that is one of the best ways," says Elliot Herman, CFP and partner at PRW Wealth Management in Quincy, Mass. Alternatively, if your employer doesn't offer the option of splitting your direct deposit, an automatic transfer can be set up from your primary checking account to a savings account on the same day you're paid. The end result is the same; the money is spirited away before it's available to be spent. - This is a nice disciplined way to build your emergency fund. Many banks offer this option, and more people should consider it. I don't do it because I am already in a mindset where I know what I have to do in the event that I lose my job. At the end of every month, I transfer a percentage of pay into my ING savings account. It always gives me a good feeling knowing that I am saving. In terms of spending, I wouldn't buy a 12 pack of soda without checking the circulars for the best price. When my husband and I bought a house, we had to decide what we could afford before we started looking. Ofcouse there were much bigger and better houses, but I have already been conditioned to live below my means. We settled for a house that is just enough for the two of us, nothing excessive. 
  Where to park your emergency fund
For most people, establishing an emergency fund is a process in which a small pile of savings gradually grows into a larger one. Keeping emergency savings fairly liquid is important, but once the fund reaches critical mass, savers may want more yield than they can find in a savings account or money market account. With a sizable pot of money saved, placing a portion into a short-term bond fund could be a good idea, according to Herman. "I would be wary of some of the higher-yielding short-term bond funds; those could have minefields within them that we don't know about right now. I don't think they're worth the risk. But I think there is something in between those and an ultrasafe savings account that is higher quality and is worth the risk," he says.- An average person without a financial advisor and does not access brokerage websites will not be able to buy these higher yielding short-term bond funds. You can definitely start by going online and just searching for the best interest rates on your savings. Many online banks offer better rates than local banks because there is no overhead to cover (exampe: rent.) That translates into better rates. You can always link your checking account to the online savings account, and you will be able to transfer that savings back to your checking when you need it. It will take 2-3 days for some banks but it is worth it.
 Yield should be secondary to liquidity, though. In general, earning a decent return on your savings is less important than simply having funds at the ready.  - True. The more liquid your money, the easier it is to access, the lower the return. For example, you can open up a savings account at a local branch (Chase, Citi, Capital One, etc) and with an average interest rate of .20%, you will earn $4 per year. If you take that money and open an online savings account, with an average interest rate of .75% you will earn $15 per year on your money. Yes it is less liquid because it takes 2-3 days to transfer it out to your checking, but you are getting a better return on your money.   Dividends - I strongly believe in divdend paying stocks if you have a stash of cash and want to invest some of it. In this economy, it is the safest bet. If you do some online research, you will find some company stocks that pay dividends. Pick a company you believe in (for example; Procter and Gamble, Johnson and Johnson, Verizon etc) and check out their dividend rate. Verizon pays 4.5% in dividends. In the case of the $2,000 example, you will earn $90 per year by investing in Verizon. This beats the online savings and your local branch savings rate. Ofcourse there is more risk because now we are talking about the stock market. To minimize risk, I like to look at companies that have staying power. Again, if you need the money, you will just have to sell the stock, and transfer it into your checking account.  
 In the recession, Americans saw "how fast things can change, and they change beyond your control," says Susan Hirshman, president of consulting firm SHE LTD and author of "Does This Make My Assets Look Fat?" "The only person responsible for you is you. You really can't rely on anyone," she says. With millions still out of work, home values still depressed and a fog of uncertainty around government-sponsored safety nets, there should be enough out there to scare people into saving
 


Read more: Many Americans Have No Emergency Fund | Bankrate.com http://www.bankrate.com/finance/consumer-index/many-americans-emergency-fund.aspx#ixzz1zIhIOA38
lilywow posted Jun 30, 2012
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9 Comments
gangstabarbie
First I'd like to say thanks for choosing to voice your opinion in pink ( a color I love!) and 2nd I agree that With or without a degree, anyone can manage their finances if they control their spending. I don't make alot but I am happy with what I have. These days, alot of the things people want are materialistic objects not a necessity. I don't drive a Mercedes, I don't own a home, but I am pretty content ;)
gangstabarbie (rep: 9.67k) posted Jun 30, 2012
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lilywow
Way to go ganstabarbie. Thank you for sharing.
lilywow (rep: 8.33k) posted Jun 30, 2012
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erick99
I've lived paycheck-to-paycheck since my divorced annihilated my financial life. It's better than it was but it is scary to not know how I would fix my car if the engine blew. I'm hoping all this changes soon as now that I have 5 years experience as an adjunct I should be able to get a staff position soon and that will double my income and allow for savings.

A very nice article. Thumbs up!
erick99 (rep: 17.2k) posted Jun 30, 2012
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Acidbaby
I live beyond my means to a point. I like to eat well, i have a thing for sporty and luxury cars, i love spoiling my children. But I also live in PA which is very cheap, especially when you stay away from the borders which I am smack dab in the center of the state. Its dirt cheap to live here, but also not much work which is of course why I travel for work. But ive also been dirt poor, hell i grew up dirt poor. When I was 18, single and working I was doing pretty good for myself. Had everything I wanted but I was young and dumb, did some shit that basically got me thrown to the streets and was homeless at the age of 19.

A few months later I met my soul mate. Things were looking up. Back to work, got myself a small apartment and was happy. A year later my daughter was born shortly after I turned 20. The girlfriend obviously had to stop work and well things went to hell again. Bringing a child into the world when I could barely afford to pay my own way. Eventually I had to turn to credit cards to make ends meet. A few years later another child. And ill be the first to admit, I didnt want kids. I still wanted to party and live like I was when I was a late teen. It took years to get back on track. Really never did until like 2000-2001, shit started getting good. My wife and I both got jobs in the auto workers industry. She was in the office and I was building vehicles making some nice coin. The savings account was stacking up, I could again afford a sports car. Wasnt eating pork and beans, spaghetti or ramen every other night.

Then 2008 came along, with the recent problems in the financial world during that time we both lost our jobs right before Christmas as our plant was shut down. SO again, it was back to the bottom. I had $25,000 in the bank when we lost our jobs. Even with unemployment I spent my last dime on Christmas Eve 2010. $25,000 lasted me 2 years and that was being very frugal. On December 27th 2010 I started a new job working in oilfield services. Back on top making triple what my wife and I ever made combined.

So, sorry to basically sit here and tell my life story. But the point I am making is, that it is vital that you have money put away. Had I not had that money in the bank who knows where I could be right now. Cuuld I be the guy stealing copper to put food on his table? The family sleeping in their car every night because they have no place to live? Believe me, its no fun sleeping in the cemetery or the park. Ive done it, it sucks. Save your money folks. Its so easy to splurge when you are doing well and I still do but I also put alot of money away for the future. Because Ive been to the top and back several times during my life. Eventually most of us hit bottom at some time. Be prepared.
Acidbaby (rep: 6.83k) posted Jun 30, 2012
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lilywow
@erik - divorces can definitely derail your financially, but I hope you get your staff position soon, to get you back on track. =)
lilywow (rep: 8.33k) posted Jun 30, 2012
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lilywow
@acidbaby - Wow, you've had it very rough. I'm glad you are sharing your experiences with us so people can understand the significance of the emergency fund, and basically that there is light at the end of the tunnel.
lilywow (rep: 8.33k) posted Jun 30, 2012
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Acidbaby
lily you have no idea. that is nothing.
Acidbaby (rep: 6.83k) posted Jun 30, 2012
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MdavidK30
Just skimming through the comments here. My 2 cents are this:
Actually, THATS all I got!!!!! 2 cents in my pocket! One reason, I took to this website. I started out after high school being a photographer, but my business didn't get anywhere, because I was working along side my own competition. Plus, I had negative thoughts all around me- my family, community, etc. No matter how I hard I tried to break in to the business, I kept getting pushed down and away.
So, I tallied along for awhile doing other things, and then even went to school ( I barely graduated from high school- I had gotten my GED) I finished a course - medical assistant- just to find a better type of job somewhere. And then, we all know what happened in 2009, there was a freeze on hiring in the medical field and I got stuck.
No job, no way to make money or use my schooling, or a way to pay the school loans. Now, I'm just barely trying to make due with whatever comes my way.
MdavidK30 (rep: 3.56k) posted Jun 30, 2012
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Taylor9124
I'm 2 years out of high school and can't find a job, especially having previous back injuries, my options are limited. I wasn't able to start school this year, but I will be next year. It's difficult to have any kind of emergency funds when I can't even get the funds to drive my car or help pay rent. But otherwise, great write up!
Taylor9124 (rep: 88) posted Jun 30, 2012
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