About 26% of Americans have no money saved to handle emergencies, according to a new poll that showed households making little progress over the past year in their ability to deal with financial trouble.
The Bankrate.com survey results released Monday also found that two-thirds of respondents said they have less than the recommended six months' worth of readily available savings to cover living expenses, such as rent or mortgage payments, utility bills and food costs, in case of a lost job or other difficulties.
Both figures were only slight improvements from Bankrate.com's survey last year, which found that 27% of respondents had no emergency savings and that 71% didn't have enough to last six months.
"Americans continue to show a stunning lack of progress in accumulating sufficient emergency savings," said Greg McBride, chief financial analyst for the financial information website.
In a robust labor market, three months of emergency savings might be enough. But Americans fell short with just 40% in this year's survey indicating they had that much in savings compared with 45% last year.
About a third of respondents — 34% — said they were less comfortable with their savings than they were a year ago. Just 18% said they were more comfortable.
The struggle to build an emergency fund came even though the personal savings rate calculated by the Commerce Department has doubled from a record low of 2% in 2005 during the subprime housing market boom to 4% in April.
Consumers have become thriftier because of the financial trauma of the Great Recession. The savings rate spiked to 8.7% in 2012, but has been trending down as the economy has improved.
The Bankrate.com survey of 1,004 adults, with a plus-or-minus accuracy of 3.6%, found that people aged 30 to 49 years old were the least likely to have readily available emergency savings, such as money in a checking or savings account.
But even the highest earners, those with annual incomes of more than $75,000, had trouble putting money away. Less than half of them — 46% — had six months' worth of savings, the poll found.