It’s an age old problem and I’ve probably written about it before (but I’ve written more than a thousand of these, so cut me some slack), but a recent survey by Bankrate, a site that can help you understand banking, or something, says fewer than four in 10 Americans have enough money saved to cover even the smallest emergency.
The baseline was $1,000 in savings and apparently most of us don’t even have that stored away anywhere. A thousand dollars is still a lot of money to most people, but it’s not what it used to be and if you have to cover something big unexpected, a thousand dollars usually doesn’t put even a small dent in it.
Once upon a time, $1,000 could get you a 10 or 11 year old car that would get you around. Now people want to sell a 10 year old car with 150,000 miles for $6,500.
Once, if you brought home $1,000 a month in pay, you could afford a place to live and not starve. Now, the biggest dump costs $750 a month in rent and you’re expected to have $2,000 to deposit before you can even move in.
Once, if you had $1,000, you were considered to be financially secure for a decent stretch of time. Now, if you’ve got $1,000 or less, you might as well start looking for a bridge to live under.
The question isn’t why $1,000 isn’t what it used to be. The normal course of inflation and time explains that question. The question is why haven’t people at a certain level kept up? And if you think I can answer that, you’ve probably got less than $1,000 ready to go.
The Bankrate guys blamed a lot of it on people draining savings accounts to get through the pandemic. I can see that. A lot of people did lose jobs, or were out of work for a long time, and had no choice but to use savings to get by.
And there were already people who didn’t have any savings as this nightmare kicked off. I’m sure credit cards are being stuffed to the limit and one day we’ll see stories about debt on the little plastic squares being out of control.
I’m not one to brag about financial matters, but I could cover a thousand dollar emergency. A couple of times even. Of course, if you do have enough money to cover emergencies, or even the fabled six months of living expenses, one thing you learn as the money accumulates, the more you have, the less you want to spend it. People like me always ask how rich people get rich? Well, the not wanting to spend money after you get it is a big way it happens. As somebody once said, rich people didn’t get rich giving money away.
Which reminds me, somebody won both the Powerball and MegaMillions lotteries in the past week. Powerball in Maryland and MegaMillions in Michigan. MegaMillions had gone over a billion dollars and Powerball was close.
No word on who the people are and whether or not they deserve to win. Oh, you know you immediately decide whether or not somebody deserved to win the lottery more than you. I’ll never get over the time some goof won $38 million and the story said he already had a $17 million a year construction company. “Why was he even playing the lottery?” I demanded to know.
Everybody wants to be rich. Just about everybody can barely afford a thousand dollar emergency. Everybody wants financial independence. Most of us are living paycheck to paycheck.
The plan for most of us is to have our last dollar spent on our funeral so we leave with the nothing we arrived with. Yeah, some want to leave a legacy for their kids, but let’s be honest. We’ll be lucky if whoever we leave behind doesn’t get stuck with a lot of bills.
So, don’t feel too bad if you have less than $1,000 set aside. Sure, you can stress about it and wonder how you’re gonna make it, but don’t let it make you feel bad about yourself.
You are far, far from being alone in such a predicament.