Nearly Half of U.S. Households have almost no Savings to Cover Emergencies or Save for the Future


New report paints dire picture of diminishing upward mobility and opportunity for American families

Washington, D.C. – February 5, 2013 – (RealEstateRama) — Almost half (43.9%) of U.S. households are living on the edge of financial collapse with almost no savings to fall back on in the event of a job loss, health crisis or other income-depleting emergency, according to a report released today by the Corporation for Enterprise Development (CFED).

The 2013 Assets & Opportunity Scorecard defines these families as “liquid asset poor,” which means they lack adequate savings to cover basic expenses at the federal poverty level for just three months if they suffer a loss of stable income. Included in this group are a majority of Americans who live below the official income poverty line of $23,050 for a family of four, as well as many who would consider themselves middle class. One quarter (25.7%) of households earning $55,465-$90,000 a year have less than three months of savings.

The percentage of liquid asset poor families was up nearly one percentage point over last year’s findings, an indication that while the economy is slowly improving, many Americans are still struggling to cover daily expenses. With limited savings, high debt and bad credit, these families have little ability to invest in long term assets, such as saving for college, buying a home or setting aside money for retirement.

“In order to cope with the recession’s continued impact, these families have had to prioritize today’s expenses over tomorrow’s goals,” said Andrea Levere, president of CFED. She called the findings “particularly disturbing given the ongoing budget talks in Congress that will likely result in further reductions in the social safety net and other programs that help low- and moderate-income people get on their feet and start planning and saving for a better future.”

The report also found that about a quarter (26%) of households are “net worth asset poor,” meaning that the few assets they do have—whether a savings account or durable assets, such as a home, business or car—are overwhelmed by their debts.

Published annually, CFED’s Assets & Opportunity Scorecard offers the most comprehensive look available at Americans’ ability to save and build wealth, fend off poverty and create a more prosperous future. The Scorecard explores how well residents are faring in the 50 states and the District of Columbia and assesses policies that are helping residents build and protect assets across five issue areas: Financial Assets & Income, Businesses & Jobs, Housing & Homeownership, Health Care and Education. The 2013 Scorecard assesses states across 102 outcome and policy measures in these five areas to determine the ability of residents to achieve financial security. Among the most disturbing findings, the Scorecard data reveals the continuing deep chasm in savings and assets between white households and households of color. Nearly two-thirds (62.6%) of households of color are liquid asset poor compared with slightly more than a third (34.8%) of white households. The Scorecard also found that white households have 10 times the median net worth of households of color ($110,973 and $10,824, respectively), and are considerably more likely to own a home. The homeownership rate for white households is nearly 30 percentage points higher than the rate for households of color (72% and 46.2%, respectively).

Additionally, the Scorecard found sizable differences between states in the percentages of residents with less than three months of savings, ranging from a high of 64% in Alabama to a low of 24% in Minnesota. Across all of the outcome indicators, states in the southeast and southwest fared the worst, with the rustbelt states, the mid-south and California also struggling.

Beyond the examination of asset poverty, the Scorecard assessed a variety of measures that affect people’s ability to save and build assets, including homeownership, college debt and access to savings accounts and credit. Among the key findings:

  • Many households don’t have the basic tools to save for a rainy day, with nearly a third (30.8%) lacking a savings account and 8.2% with no mainstream financial account at all.
  • For the second year in a row, more than half (56.4%) of consumers have subprime credit rates, meaning they do not qualify for short-term credit at “prime” rates, making them more likely to turn to high-cost payday, auto-title or installment loans.
  • Two out of every three college graduates is leaving school with student loan debt, the average amount of which increased by $552.98 over last year’s Scorecard findings to $26,600.
  • By the second quarter of 2012 the foreclosure rate had dropped to 4.27% – a decrease from a 2010 high of 4.6% but still above the pre-housing crash rate of 0.99% in 2006. The move by financial institutions to stop offering high-cost mortgages has been a mixed blessing for asset poor families. On the up side, they are no longer prey to abusive and unscrupulous lenders. On the down side, they are largely shut out of the mortgage market.

To improve policies and programs that promote financial security and opportunity, CFED has joined forces with the nationwide Assets & Opportunity Network, which is comprised of more than 850 advocacy organizations, service providers, researchers, financial institutions and others representing 38 states. “The Assets & Opportunity Network is a powerful voice for policy change at the federal, state and local level,” said Jennifer Brooks, director of state and local policy for CFED. “From expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit to regulating the short-term credit market, the Network’s efforts will help ensure that all families have the opportunity to save and move up the economic ladder.”

To read an analysis of key findings from the 2013 Assets & Opportunity Scorecard, click here. To access the complete Scorecard, visit To learn more about the Assets & Opportunity Network, visit

For more information contact Amy Saltzman at 301.656.0348; 202.669.8494 (cell); or Kristin Lawton at 202.207.0137; .


CFED empowers low- and moderate-income households to build and preserve assets by advancing policies and programs that help them achieve the American Dream, including buying a home, pursuing higher education, starting a business and saving for the future. As a leading source for data about household financial security and policy solutions, CFED understands what families need to succeed. We promote programs on the ground and invest in social enterprises that create pathways to financial security and opportunity for millions of people. Established in 1979 as the Corporation for Enterprise Development, CFED works nationally and internationally through its offices in Washington, DC; Durham, North Carolina; and San Francisco, California.

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