(CBS News) About half of Americans are unprepared for a financial emergency - with savings tucked away to cover less than three months worth of expenses if income was lost - and a quarter of the country has no rainy day fund whatsoever, according to a survey for Bankrate.com.
"The majority of Americans still have much work to do in building an adequate emergency savings cushion," Greg McBride, Bankrate's senior financial analyst says of the results.
According to Bankrate, all Americans should strive to have enough money in savings to cover six months of lost wages. Only 24 percent of the nation meets that goal, the study shows.
As you might expect, those most likely to have sufficient savings were predominantly wealthier, older Americans. Among people aged 65 or older, 39 percent reported at least six months worth of savings - but 15 percent of this subgroup also said they had nothing saved at all.
For younger Americans, aged 18 to 29, the statistics were far more dire, with 35 percent reporting no savings at all, and a solid majority, 63 percent, saying they had enough to cover three months' worth of expenses, at best.More from MoneyWatch:
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Bankrate notes that the recession which began in 2008 has now left more Americans vulnerable to financial duress should the economy take another turn for the worst - or even dip into a dreaded "double dip" recession.
Essentially, with so many Americans losing stable income during the first recession, and so many emergency funds being depleted as a result, a greater number of people are now at risk of having to rely on credit if they again find their income reduced.
Bankrate.com is a commercial website which offers advice and services on financial planning. The survey was carried out for Bankrate by Princeton Survey Research Associates International, which spoke to 1,006 Americans in its research. The reported margin of error for the research was plus or minus 3.6 percentage points.