According to a survey released by Bankrate.com, of those who say they have savings, 67 percent said that they had less than six months worth of living costs, including rent, mortgage payments, utility bills and food costs, while those with at least three months worth of expenses dropped from 45 percent to 40 percent. Bankrate considers six months of expenses as the recommended amount for emergency savings.
"Americans continue to show a stunning lack of progress in accumulating sufficient emergency savings," said Greg McBride, chief financial analyst for the financial information website.
A third of the respondents said that they were less comfortable with their savings this year than last, with 18 percent saying that they were more comfortable this year.
The numbers are worse looking at the number of households with at least six months of expenses saved up as savings. Seventy-one percent of households said they had savings less than the six-month mark.
Despite the drop in savings, the personal savings rate doubled from its low of two percent in 2005 to four percent in April, according to the Commerce Department.
Based on demographics, African Americans, at 40 percent, were twice as likely to not have emergency savings as whites at 21 percent. Americans between the ages of 30-49 were the most likely of any group to not have any savings.
"If you don't have emergency savings, what do you do when you have an unplanned expense or the money runs out before the bills do?" McBride says. "You're stuck. That means for some people (turning to) high-cost borrowing, check cashing, a payday lender."
Low wage growth, relatively high unemployment, high household expenses and in the case of young adults, student loan payments, have made it very difficult for Americans to prioritize savings.