More than 1 in 4 US adults have no emergency savings, survey finds

FILE-A person holds a wallet filled with money. (Photo Illustration by Thomas Trutschel/Photothek via Getty Images)

Emergency savings can come in handy when you need it the most, but a recent survey finds that some Americans don’t have it all. 

Bankrate finds that more than 1 in 4 adults (27%) are in this predicament, representing the highest percentage since the consumer financial services company asked the question in 2020. 

Results for the survey used data collected from a poll between May 17 and May 20, 2024, among 1,032 individuals 18 years or older. 

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Among generational groups without emergency savings, Millennials were the highest at 34% followed by Gen Xers at 31%, Gen Zers at 29%, and Baby Boomers at 16%. 

The survey noted more than 1 in 3 people have more credit card debt than emergency savings, with Gen Xers (47%) and Millennials (46%) accounting for the highest percentage of all groups. 

Separately, respondents were asked if the priority is to build their emergency savings or pay down their debt. Approximately 36% said paying down their debt and increasing their emergency savings is a priority, compared to 28% only focusing on building their emergency savings, 25% are prioritizing paying down their debt, and 11% said that neither is a priority. 

RELATED: How does your savings account compare to the average American?

How can I build my emergency savings?

Establishing an emergency financial reserve can be done in a variety of ways and Bankrate offers three suggestions for consumers trying to determine the best action plan. 

Figure out how much you need in emergency savings

Saving three to six months of expenses in case of emergencies is ideal. Citing financial experts, Bankrate notes that if your monthly bills are $2,000 per month, saving $6,000 will allow you to pay your bills for a short time if you lose your main source of income.

Open a savings account just for emergencies

Different emergency funds allow you to protect your savings and allow you quick access when you need the money. An online savings account, money market account, money market mutual fund, or a separate savings account with your existing bank or credit union can allow you to save emergency funds for the future.

Make a budget around savings

If you already have an existing budget to make room for saving more, it’s important to maintain good habits. Bankrate explains that rebuilding your savings, or starting to save for the first time, can be easier by transferring money to your savings each month or working jobs on the side for additional income.

This story was reported from Washington, D.C.