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The number of Americans without an emergency fund is at a six-year low.

For once, most Americans are ready for everything to go horribly wrong.

Personal finance company Bankrate surveys Americans every year on how they are saving for emergencies. This year 75 percent of Americans have some kind of emergency savings.

The number of Americans who have enough saved to cover them comfortably for six months has increased to 31 percent from 28 percent last year and 22 percent in 2015.

Americans with some kind of savings — but not enough to cover living expenses for three to five months — have increased from 18 to 20 percent.

“With all the spending that is not happening in the economy, something else apparently is. Americans are putting money in savings,” says Greg McBride, chief financial analyst. “We’re still not out of the woods yet — everyone should strive to have at least six months’ expenses socked away for the unexpected — but it’s encouraging to see progress being made.”

About time Americans are saving

Just earlier this year Americans were struggling to keep money in a rainy day fund. Sixty percent of respondents to a Bankrate survey said they didn’t have enough in savings for a $1,000 emergency room visit or $500 unexpected car repair.

At the time it was evident that Americans understood the importance of having money set aside, but didn’t. Forty-five percent said they, or a family member, had an unexpected expense in the past year.

The solutions many people had to deal with an emergency were to borrow money from their 401(k), tap into their home equity, or turn to family members for help.

Having money in savings is a far safer bet and would have the lowest negative impact after dealing with an emergency.

“It is a much better alternative. There is nothing as quick and free of negative consequences,” says Carina Diamond, a certified financial planner professional in Akron, Ohio, and board ambassador for the CFP Board. “One little thing — a new roof, a medical emergency — can set you up for financial disaster if you don’t have an emergency fund.”

Americans can do better saving by learning about money sooner

The numbers are improving, but not everyone has enough saved to make it through an emergency situation. This may not be their fault. Financial literacy is something that should start at a young age, but doesn’t.

Which could be caused by the fact that it’s not taught to us like reading, writing and arithmetic are in grade school. Leaving most Americans financially illiterate by an age where they need basic financial skills to survive in this country.

“Financial sophistication is an essential 21st century life skill that people need to succeed, yet recent studies and surveys show that our citizens have not mastered these topics,” says John Pelletier, director at Champlain College’s Center for Financial Literacy. “The basics of personal financial planning — like the value of money; how to save; invest and spend it and how not to waste it — have not been taught in school or at home.”

Most Americans want to save money, they just don’t know how to. Only half (51 percent) of Americans actually save money on a regular monthly basis. Almost half (48 percent) can’t save at the end of the month, due to debt, job changes, medical expenses — all affect how much they can sock away at the end of the month.

“Our economy has come a long way since the depths of the recession, but most Americans up and down the socioeconomic scale are still facing significant pressures in saving for today and tomorrow,” says CFP Board consumer advocate Eleanor Blayney. “An inability to start saving early, debt, and stagnant incomes are just a few of the factors driving Americans’ financial anxiety.”

Learning from a young age how to avoid going deep into debt, and the importance of saving can help us in our financial future and avoid feeling destitute when faced with an emergency.

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Joe Pye

Joe Pye

Associate editor

Pye is the associate editor of


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