According to a study by Bankrate.com, just 52% of Americans have more money in emergency savings accounts than they do in credit card debt. That’s unchanged from 2016, but the percentage of Americans with more credit card debt than emergency savings has grown from 22% to 24% over the past year. Unfortunately, about one in six Americans state they have no credit card debt, but no emergency savings either. Those last folks are just one unplanned expense away from having credit card debt or other high-cost debt.
“Too many Americans haven’t right-sized their savings relative to debt, and even those that have made progress still find themselves with an inadequate amount of savings,” says Bankrate.com chief financial analyst Greg McBride.
Back in February, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York announced that total household debt increased by $226 billion (or 1.8%) to $12.58 trillion during the fourth quarter of 2016. That’s the largest quarterly increase in total household debt since the fourth quarter of 2013 and $460 billion in debt more than U.S. consumers had amassed a year earlier. It also put debt just 0.8% below its peak of $12.68 trillion in the third quarter of 2008.
Almost every form of debt increased from the same time in 2015. Mortgage debt is up $231 billion to $8.48 trillion. Student loan debt increased $78 billion to $1.31 trillion. Auto loan debt is up $93 billion to $1.16 trillion. Credit card debt climbed by $46 billion to $779 billion. Even all of those figure may be low.
“Debt held by Americans is approaching its previous peak, yet its composition today is vastly different as the growth in balances has been driven by non-housing debt,” says Wilbert van der Klaauw, senior vice president at the New York Fed. “Since reaching a trough in mid-2013, the rebound in household debt has been led by student debt and auto debt, with only sluggish growth in mortgage debt.”
According to the Federal Reserve in Washington, D.C., revolving debt of all kinds exceeded $1 billion in the fourth quarter of 2016 for the first time since 2008 and returned to that mark again in February.
Financial site NerdWallet just completed its annual survey of household debt and found that the average household with credit card debt has a balance of $16,061.That household, assuming an interest rate of 18.76%, pays a total of $1,292 in credit card interest per year on $7,941 in debt — which is just $523 less than WalletHub considers unsustainable for a median household income of little less than $52,000.
It’s important to have emergency savings because you never know when an emergency will strike.