If you experienced an emergency and needed to come up with $US2000, could you do it?
A study conducted in 2012 by FINRA asked exactly this question.
Professors Amir Sufi and Atif Main looked at this data for their work on household debt and came up with this chart. Nearly 40% of Americans are unlikely to be able to come up with $US2000 if need be. Less than 40% are certain they would be able to come up with the money.
Other similar questions are equally grim.
The majority of respondents, for example, say they do not have enough money to cover a 3-month joblessness stint. And of the respondents who don’t have much in emergency funds, the plurality say they believe they have too much debt.
This lack of a cushion for so many Americans helps explain the wave of foreclosures and defaults seen during the crisis: Partly they were the result of inflated home values coming down. But another big aspect was the fact that for many Americans, losing their job means an instant inability to pay bills.