Poll: Two-thirds of US would struggle to cover $1,000 crisis
By KEN SWEET and EMILY SWANSON
NEW YORK (AP) — Two-thirds of Americans would have difficulty coming up with the money to cover a $1,000 emergency, according to an exclusive poll released Thursday, a signal that despite years after the Great Recession, Americans’ finances remain precarious as ever.
These difficulties span all incomes, according to the poll conducted by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. Three-quarters of people in households making less than $50,000 a year and two-thirds of those making between $50,000 and $100,000 would have difficulty coming up with $1,000 to cover an unexpected bill.
Even for the country’s wealthiest 20 percent — households making more than $100,000 a year — 38 percent say they would have at least some difficulty coming up with $1,000.
“The more we learn about the balance sheets of Americans, it becomes quite alarming,” said Caroline Ratcliffe, a senior fellow at the Urban Institute focusing on poverty and emergency savings issues.
Mitchell Timme, 26, said that his wages have remained flat for the last few years while his cost of living has increased. Once everything is paid “there’s nothing left to save,” he said.
“It definitely adds stress to everyday life. It hangs over you. While it’s not something you would complain about every day, it’s there. And it weighs on you,” Timme said, who works at a security company in Phoenix.
Having a modest, immediately available emergency fund is recognized as critical to financial health. Families that have even a small amount of non-retirement savings, between $250 and $749, are less likely to be evicted from their homes and less likely to need public benefits, an Urban Institute study found.
“People are extremely vulnerable if they don’t have savings,” Ratcliffe said. “And it’s a cost to taxpayers as well. Lack of savings can lead to homelessness, or other problems.”
Despite an absence of savings, two-thirds of Americans said they feel positive about their finances , according to survey data released Wednesday by AP-NORC, a sign that they’re managing day-to-day expenses fine. The challenge for many often comes from economic forces beyond their control such as a dip in the stock market that threatens their job or an unexpected medical bill.