Savings Rates Increase, Consumers Remain Unprepared for Job Loss

Consumers are increasing their savings and paying off debt, but most Americans are not prepared for a major financial emergency, a new survey says.

According to a Survey from HSBC Bank (NYSE: HBC), most Americans do not have nearly enough savings to sustain themselves if they lose their jobs. 61% of survey respondents stated that if the primary breadwinner in their family had lost their income, they could only live on their savings for three months or less. A full 38% of consumers surveyed stated that their emergency savings would not sustain their expenses for even one month.

Most personal finance experts including Howard Dayton from Crown Financial Ministries and Dave Ramsey of radio fame suggests that consumers have an emergency fund of three to six months expenses, but HSBC’s new survey finds that only 39% of respondents have an emergency fund in place.

Some experts are now recommending that consumers have enough savings to last a full 12 months. According to the HSBC survey, 11% of Americans had enough savings to sustain themselves for a full year.

David Goeden, a Vice President for HSBC Bank stated, “While we have seen a robust increase in the personal savings rate in 2009, and we are moving in the right direction, what is clear is that it’s not enough. More than ever, Americans are aware of the importance of having an emergency fund; yet, despite this heightened awareness – and rising unemployment rates – there is still a sweeping lack of preparedness for the unexpected.”

The survey found that 51% of respondents with an annual household income of less than $50,000 would only be able to live off of their savings for one month. Only 29% of respondents making more than $100,000 a year could live on their savings for 3 months. The study found that families with children and adults over the age of 55 were more likely to be unprepared for a major financial emergency.

Consumers are changing their habits though. According to the survey, in the last 6 months, 55% of consumers have cut back on leisure activities, 46% have cut back on travel and 40% have cut back on electronics. When asked what they would do if they unexpectedly received $1,000, 63 percent said they would pay bills, and nearly 40 percent said they would put all or the majority into savings.