NORTH PALM BEACH, Fla. (7/8/14)--More than a quarter of Americans do not have an emergency savings account. Of those who do, two-thirds have less than six months' worth of living expenses, according to a Bankrate.com survey (Bankrate.com June 23).
The percentage of respondents who say they have no emergency savings has fluctuated between 24% and 28% since 2011. Student loan debt, high household expenses and flat wage growth all contribute to Americans' low savings rates (USAToday.com June 23).
If you have no emergency savings, getting started is the most important step. Follow this advice from the consumer publications editors at the Credit Union National Association in Madison, Wis., to cut spending and build your account:
* Get cooperation from family. Discuss money management with your partner, develop a spending plan together, and agree who will take financial responsibility for what. Be honest about your finances. Set SMART goals: specific, measurable, attainable, results-oriented, and with fixed time frames. Once you and your partner are the same path, involve your children. Make learning about money fun, be consistent in your teachings and be a good financial role model.
* Control living expenses. Try to reduce monthly expenses by evaluating TV, Internet and phone bills. Check with providers to make sure you're getting the lowest rates. Compare insurance policies. Check the Association of Insurance Commissioners website (naic.org) for price comparisons and the Insurance Information Institute (iii.org) for advice about picking reputable companies. Take a close look at what you're spending on food; cut back on going out for meals and picking up takeout. Buy ingredients for interesting meals and make extra for leftovers for lunches.
* Make your credit union your partner. Use direct deposit and automatic transfers from your checking into savings. Automate payments and transfers by using online or mobile bill pay. Refinance your home loan or car loans to take advantage of lower rates, if you qualify. The professionals at your credit union can help you get and stay on track with saving and prudent borrowing.
For related information, read "Practical Ways to Save Money" and "Live Simply, Reap Savings" in the Home & Family Finance Resource Center.