Money Talks, So Should You

What to do when you don't have a rainy-day fund

A survey shows 56 percent of us don't have enough savings to cover three months of unanticipated financial emergencies.

Brian O'Connell
by Brian O'Connell, MainStreet contributor

U.S. financial consumers may indeed see slivers of sunlight on the economic horizon, but when it comes to saving money, especially with a rainy-day fund, storm clouds continue to brew.

The Finra Investor Education Foundation has the goods, with its State-By-State Financial Capability Study.

READ: Growing your emergency fund when money is tight

In the report, Finra reports that well over half of U.S. adults — 56 percent — say they don’t have rainy-day funds, in this case meaning enough savings to cover three months of unanticipated financial emergencies. Finra blames “lack of financial education” for the savings drain.

“This survey reveals that many Americans continue to struggle to make ends meet, plan ahead and make sound financial decisions — and that financial literacy levels remain low, especially among our youngest workers,” Finra Foundation Chairman Richard Ketchum says. “No matter how you slice and dice it, this rich, new dataset underscores the need for us to continue to explore innovative ways to build financial capability among consumers.”

It’s not just a lack of focus on rainy-day savings.

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Americans seems to be falling behind in other key basic financial planning areas:

  • Only 41 percent of Americans surveyed reported spending less than their income.
  • 26 percent of U.S. adults reported having unpaid medical bills.
  • 34 percent of U.S. adults reported paying only the minimum credit card payment in the past year.

Taken together, it’s an uphill climb for financial consumers to shore up their rainy-day funds — and their entire savings strategy, for that matter. To help, we reached out to Capital One Bank for some tips on how to shed some sunlight on your personal savings plan.

Here’s what they say:

Create a savings plan: Establish some financial priorities. Know what you owe on household debt and set some financial goals that will allow you to put some money away for a rainy day. Treat your owns savings as a monthly bill – put money into a rainy-day fund each month just like you would pay your mortgage or your utility bill.

READ: How much money you should have in your emergency fund

Make a list: Write up a thorough list of all your monthly income and expenses and use that as your financial blueprint for savings. 

Help your young family members save: It’s not enough to be the master of your own financial domain. If you’re a parent or grandparent (or even older brother or sister) you have to get your young family members in line too. “Teaching your kids the essentials when it comes to money (creating a budget, starting a checking account and listing out financial goals) at a young age can set them up for a better financial future,” Capital One Bank says.

Saving for a rainy-day isn’t a luxury — it’s a necessity. If you’re one of the 56 percent of Americans who don’t have three months’ worth of savings set aside, maybe it’s time to overhaul your entire savings strategy.


Brian O’Connell has 15 years of experience covering business news and trends, particularly in the financial, health care and career management sectors. He has written 14 books and appeared on CNN, Fox News, CNBC, C-Span, Bloomberg, CBS Radio and other media outlets and in such publications as The Wall Street Journal and The He is a former Wall Street bond trader.