Henry Buckley once said “Save a part of your income and begin now, for the man with a surplus controls his circumstances and the man without a surplus is controlled by his circumstances.”
We all know we should save for a rainy day. We heard it repeated often by our grandparents as children. However, somewhere along the way, we as Americans have lost our way and forgotten this very simple principle. According to a recent study by the Federal Reserve, far too many Americans are not financially prepared to handle even the smallest of unexpected expenses.
The study found 62% of American households have less than $1,000 in savings – nearly half couldn’t cover a $400 emergency expense without borrowing the money or selling something. And perhaps most distressing – almost 30% report having no savings at all.[i] You may think this is only a problem that affects lower-income individuals but the numbers do not bear that out. A recent survey found that some 29% of adults earning more than $150,000 a year, and 44% making between $100,000 and $149,999, also had less than $1,000 in savings. According to the data, middle and upper class individuals are not immune.[ii]
There are a multitude of economic and cultural factors that might be causing Americans to save at less than half the rate previous generations did 50 years ago. It’s true for many that wages have remained stagnant while the costs of goods and services have increased. It’s also true that the availability of credit has helped to produce a culture of consumption. But no matter the reason, Americans spend far too much and save far too little.
Financial expert Dave Ramsey recommends a minimum of a $1,000 emergency fund exist in every household, and I agree. No matter your income, or your budget, not having at least $1,000 in your bank right now is a recipe for disaster. Murphy’s Law, which states, “Anything that can go wrong will, often at the worst possible time” is as true now as ever. If you don’t have a strategy to account for it, a minor inconvenience will quickly become a devastating crisis.
That’s the bad news. The good news is you don’t have to be a helpless victim, you can do something about it. By establishing an emergency fund and living by a realistic budget you can stop Murphy from getting his foot in the door when he does come for a visit.
We live in the wealthiest nation in the world. There is no reason every single person reading this should not have at least $1,000 sitting in their bank. However, if you’re like the majority of Americans who don’t, I implore you to make that your goal for 2017. In doing so you can take a huge step forward in taking control of your circumstances rather than letting your circumstances control you.
[i] Report on the Economic Well-Being of U.S. Households in 2014 (May 2015) https://www.federalreserve.gov/econresdata/2014-report-economic-well-being-us-households-201505.pdf
[ii] GoBankingRates Servey American Savings September 19, 2016