Fewer Americans saving for emergencies

A new study says almost half of Americans don't have enough saved to cover three months expenses, up slightly from a year ago.

Jeff Horwich: A report today from Bankrate.com says almost half of Americans don't have enough emergency savings to last three months. One problem: they are saving too much for retirement.

Here's Marketpalce's Sally Herships.


Sally Herships: It's not that we're bad savers, it's just that we're really good spenders. That's one reason we don't have more money stashed away in our emergency accounts.

Xavier Gabaix: So if you have lots of cash lying around, it's too tempting to consume it.

Xavier Gabaix teaches finance at NYU. He says consumers also underestimate the likelihood of bad events. Which brings up a question worthy of King Solomon: Should we save for emergencies or retirement?

Tom Balcom: The first priority should be the emergency fund.

Tom Balcom is a financial planner in Boca Raton, Fla. He says we need to have six to 12 months of cash on hand -- just in case. But can't we always raid our retirement funds?

Nevin Adams: The good news is that you can. The bad news is that you probably don't want to.

Nevin Adams is director of the American Savings Education Council. He says cashing in early could mean handing over a third of your savings in taxes and penalties. Instead, Bankrate.com says the answer is: Save more for emergencies and retirement.

In New York, I'm Sally Herships for Marketplace.

About the author

Sally Herships is a regular contributor to Marketplace.

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