Standard financial literacy curricula recommends that households should have at least three months of income set aside in emergency savings. Most snapshot surveys of American households’ actual emergency savings paint a dire picture against this standard. The assumed “emergency” in emergency savings advice is usually the loss of a steady job, by implication an infrequent occurrence. But households in our survey experience smaller, more frequent, shortfalls in income.

Our look into emergency savings among USFD households suggests that households’ inability to accumulate emergency savings is not simply a matter of goal-setting, financial literacy, or income. Download and read more about the realities of income volatility in America and what it means for household savings.

USFD is a joint initiative of NYU Wagner’s Financial Access Initiative (FAI) and The Center for Financial Services Innovation (CFSI). Leadership support for USFD is provided by the Ford Foundation and the Citi Foundation, with additional support and guidance from the Omidyar Network.