NEW YORK (MainStreet) — What would happen if you had a $500 car repair, or a trip to the emergency room?
Well if you’re like most Americans, you likely wouldn’t be able to afford it. A new survey from Bankrate shows only 38% of Americans would have enough money in their savings account for an unexpected expense. The survey also showed 25% would raise the money by cutting spending, 16% would borrow from family and 12% would use their credit cards.
The good news from the new research is while Americans may not be able to afford an emergency, 82% at least are keeping a household budget, even if not adhering to it — up from 60% in 2012.
"A solid majority of Americans say they have a household budget, which is a good thing,” said Claes Bell, banking analyst at Bankrate. “But too few have the ability to cover expenses outside their budget without going into debt or turning to family and friends for help.”
One problem with Americans’ budgeting may be most are still keeping it with pen and paper — 36%. Or, possibly worse, 18% say they do it just in their heads. Only 26% use a computer program or smartphone app. And while Millennials are more likely to keep electronic budgets than older adults, even that generation sides with non-electronic tools.
“With so many good budgeting apps, websites and computer programs out there, those relying on analog budgeting methods such as paper and pen, or simply keeping track of expenses in their head, could be missing an opportunity to make their budgeting easier and more effective,” Bell added.
Not surprisingly, the study did show the ability to afford unexpected expenses increased with age, income and education level. For instance, 44% of senior citizens have enough savings to cover unexpected expenses, compared with only 33% of Millennials. The numbers also showed more than 60% of those with annual household income of $75,000-plus have enough savings to cover unexpected expenses — more than two-and-a-half times the number of people with household income under $30,000.
Also, more than half of college graduates have enough savings to cover unexpected expenses compared to 32% of those without a college education.
Among those surveyed, the most common expenditures after rent or mortgage payments, were utilities — such as electricity, water and phone bills — followed by transportation costs, medical expenses and student loans.
The numbers seem to jive with an earlier study by Bankrate, which showed for the third consecutive year, Americans' top financial priority was getting caught up on bills or staying current on living expenses. According to that study, more than 40% of Americans say they are most concerned with getting a handle on their bills. That number has shown a steady increase each year, up from 36% in 2013 and 32% in 2012. Nearly a quarter said “paying down debt” was their top priority — about even with the last two years.
"Americans' top financial priorities reflect the realities many households face of stagnant incomes, outstanding debt and insufficient savings," said Greg McBride, Bankrate's chief financial analyst.
While staying current or getting caught up on bills was the most common priority across all ages, it was highest among those between 50 and 64. Those 65 and older were more likely than any other age group to say providing financial assistance to family or friends was their top priority — with 15% agreeing so.
--Written by Chris Metinko for MainStreet