Approximately 63% of Americans have no emergency savings for things such as a $1,000 emergency room visit or a $500 car repair, according to a survey released Wednesday of 1,000 adults by personal finance website Bankrate.com, up slightly from 62% last year. Faced with an emergency, they say they would raise the money by reducing spending elsewhere (23%), borrowing from family and/or friends (15%) or using credit cards to bridge the gap (15%).
This lack of emergency savings could be a problem for millions of Americans. More than four in 10 Americans either experienced a major unexpected expense over the past 12 months or had an immediate family member who had an unexpected expense, Bankrate found. (The survey didn’t specify the impact of that expense.) “Without emergency savings, you may not have money to cover needed home repairs,” says Signe-Mary McKernan, senior fellow and economist at the Urban Institute, a nonprofit organization that focuses on social and economic policy. “Similarly, without emergency savings, people could raid their retirement account.”Why Small Debts Matter So Much To Black Lives - NationofChange | Progressive Change Through Positive Action
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It is not unreasonable to attribute these perils to discrimination. But there’s no question that the main reason small financial problems can have such a disproportionate effect on black families is that, for largely historical reasons rooted in racism, they have far smaller financial reserves to fall back on than white families.
The most recent federal survey in 2013 put the difference in net worth between the typical white and black family at $131,000. That’s a big number, but here’s an even more troubling statistic: About one-quarter of African-American families had less than $5 in reserve. Low-income whites had about $375.
Any setback, from a medical emergency to the unexpected loss of hours at work, can be devastating. It means that harsh punishments for the failure to pay small debts harm black families inordinately. Sometimes, the consequence is jail. Other times, electricity is cut, or wages garnished.
American consumers account for almost 70 percent of economic activity, but they won’t have enough purchasing power in 2016 to keep the economy going on more than two cylinders. Blame widening inequality.
Consider: The median wage is 4 percent below what it was in 2000, adjusted for inflation. The median wage of young people, even those with college degrees, is also dropping, adjusted for inflation. That means a continued slowdown in the rate of family formation—more young people living at home and deferring marriage and children – and less demand for goods and services.
At the same time, the labor participation rate—the percentage of Americans of working age who have jobs—remains near a 40-year low.
The giant boomer generation won’t and can’t take up the slack. Boomers haven’t saved nearly enough for retirement, so they’re being forced to cut back expenditures.