The National Foundation for Credit Counseling's (NFCC) July online poll revealed that 64 percent of Americans would utilize a source other than their savings account to satisfy a $1,000 unplanned expense.
The largest number of close to 2,700 respondents, 36 percent, said they would tap their savings account to fund the unplanned expense. Utilizing rainy day funds for an emergency is exactly why a person saves, to protect them against the unknown. However, the remaining 64 percent are in a much different situation, living on a slippery financial slope.
"Without adequate savings, consumers have poor resolution choices when an emergency arises," said Gail Cunningham, spokesperson for the NFCC. "People often say that can't afford to save, but the truth is that they can't afford not to."
The survey revealed that to resolve the problem, 17 percent of respondents indicated they would borrow the money from friends or family. Asking those close to you for a loan can be awkward, and potentially negatively impact the relationship. Further, it can lead to "serial borrowing," with the borrower always leaning on someone else to solve his or her financial problems.
Perhaps even more troubling is that another 17 percent said that they would neglect existing obligations in order to satisfy the emergency need. This option can easily snowball out of control and have serious consequences. Skipping the rent or mortgage payment and neglecting to pay credit cards or loans will cause late fees to be added to the debt, putting negative marks on the credit report, resulting in a lower credit score. Well-meaning individuals who are already living on the financial edge may never be able to catch up, exacerbating the problem for months or years down the road.
The next highest number of responses was in the category of selling or pawing assets, with 12 percent choosing this option. Disposing of unwanted or unused items can be a positive way to raise funds. However, no one ever wants to be in a position of having to sell items at a bargain basement prices out of desperation. If you have items you can do without, the time to liquidate is when you're in charge of the sales price, putting the proceeds into a savings account.
The resolution options of taking out a loan or obtaining a cash advance from a credit card were each selected by the least number of respondents, nine percent. The low number of individuals choosing these categories could indicate a lack of access to credit, which might be a good thing, as taking on new debt would put stress on existing obligations, the last thing someone in a financial crisis needs to do.
"Selecting any option other than taking the money from savings should be a red flag," continued Cunningham. "If saving money has always seemed out of reach, there is no better time than now to get to the root of the problem and protect yourself, your family and your financial future."
If you need help finding hidden money in your budget, reach out to a trained NFCC Certified Credit Counselor at Family Services, Inc., a NFCC Member Agency serving South Carolina. To be automatically connected to the NFCC Member Agency closest to your, dial 800.388.2227, or go online to www.DebtAdvice.org. For help in Spanish, call 800.682.9832.
The July poll question and results are as follows:
If you needed $1,000 for an unplanned expense, where would you turn to find the money?
- Your savings account= 36%
- Take out a loan= 9%
- Borrow from friends or family= 17%
- Cash advance on your credit card= 9%
- Disregard other monthly expenses= 17%
- Sell or pawn assets= 12%
Note: The NFCC's July Financial Literacy Opinion Index was conducted via the homepage of the NFCC Web site (www.DebtAdvice.org) from July 1-31, 2011 and was answered by 2,667 individuals.
The National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC), founded in 1951, is the nation's largest and longest serving national nonprofit credit counseling organization. The NFCC's mission is to promote the national agenda for financially responsible behavior, and build capacity for its members to deliver the highest-quality financial education and counseling services. NFCC Members annually help over three million consumers through close to 800 community-based offices nationwide. For free and affordable confidential advice through a reputable NFCC Member, call 800.388.2227, (en Español 800.682.9823) or visit www.nfcc.org. Visit the NFCC on Facebook: www.facebook.com/NFCCDebtAdvice, on Twitter: twitter.com/NFCCDebtAdvice, on YouTube: www.YouTube.com/NFCC09 and on their blog: http://financialeducation.nfcc.org