Americans want to have at least $76,750 in the bank, on average, to feel comfortable about their financial situation.
That's according to a nationwide survey of 2,000 adults in the United States done by the savings and investing app Acorns. With that much stashed away, respondents felt they wouldn't have to worry about how they'd handle a crisis like an unexpected expense or the loss of a job.
But reaching that goal is easier said than done.
According to the most recent Federal Reserve consumer finance data, the average American household has $40,000 in liquid savings across accounts at a bank or another financial intuition. That doesn't include equity in real estate or money in retirement savings such as a 401(k).
Older adults tend to have more saved than younger ones. Those aged 45 to 64 have between $40,900 and $57,200 set aside, the Fed findings show, while people between the ages of 35 and 44 have $25,000. Americans under 35 have just $9,600 put away.
Research by GOBankingRates in 2019 shows some Americans have even less. A survey of nearly 1,000 adults, aged 18 and older, found 24% have less than $1,000 saved. And 45% have nothing saved at all.
Acorns found that the biggest barrier to reaching savings goals is income: More than a third, 34%, of respondents say they don't earn as much as they would like.
Before the coronavirus pandemic, the average household income was $68,700 annually, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. For millennials, it was closer to $47,000. The gap is even wider between genders: Women in the U.S. earn 81 cents for every dollar men make.
The outbreak hasn't helped, either. While some adults are saving more than ever, a significant amount are struggling to make ends meet. Since the start of the crisis, 14%, up to 46 million people, said they've wiped out their emergency savings, according to a CNBC + Acorns Invest In You Savings Survey. And 11% had to borrow money for everyday expenses.
That's not to mention women have been disproportionately cutting back on job hours to take care of their children and provide educational support at home.
The news isn't all bad. The Acorns survey found that a quarter of Americans already have the ideal amount saved, and another half think they can get there one day. When asked what they would do if gifted $10,000, many would make a smart decision: One-quarter, 25%, would put it toward a rainy-day fund, 12% would pay back debt, and about 10% would invest in retirement.
Simply having the organizational tools to save can also help young Americans bolster their savings. Of the survey respondents aged 18 to 24, nearly 30% say the fact they don't maintain a budget keeps them from saving more. Money experts say that's an easy fix.
Video by Courtney Stith
Take a critical look at your spending patterns, says Dorothy E. Bossung, a certified financial planner and executive vice president of Lowery Asset Consulting: "Where is your income going? Is there a 'leak in the system'? Going through the process of tracking down how you spend your money now will help you approximate how much money you will need."
And "pay yourself first," she added. "You certainly want to be current with your debt as you want to maintain a good credit record, but paying off debt, whether it is credit cards or a mortgage, [but] eliminating an emergency fund in the process is usually ill-advised."
Other advisors agree. If the health crisis has made anything clear, Erika Safran, a certified financial planner and principal at Safran Wealth Advisors, tells Grow, it's that "an emergency fund is key." It can save you from a surprise bill "so that you don't build up expensive debt."
Get creative about how you can make extra money if you need to. Some of these eight in-demand roles for a post-coronavirus economy, for instance, can pay over $100,000 a year.
How much and how quickly you can save depends on your personal situation, so don't feel bad if you need time, especially if you've been affected by the recession. "When you are back to work and income has returned to some semblance of normal, you can rebuild the savings," Greg McBride, chief financial analyst at personal finance website Bankrate, recently told CNBC. "You don't dry off in the middle of a rainstorm."
Grow is produced in partnership with Acorns and CNBC.
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