Despite the fact that we're all supposed to be putting money away for the unforeseeable, most Americans don't have nearly enough savings to tackle a significant emergency. In a 2016 GoBankingRates study, 69% of adults admitted to having less than $1,000 in the bank. Worse yet, 34% of those surveyed owned up to having no savings at all. This data echoes a study conducted by the Federal Reserve Board, which found that nearly half of U.S. households don't have enough cash reserves to cover an unexpected $400 bill.
Of course, it's easy to come up with different reasons as to why you haven't established an emergency fund. But if you don't change your attitude, there's a good chance you'll come to regret it. With that in mind, here are three excuses you need to stop making. Immediately.
1. There's no way I'll ever be able to save that much money
Most folks are advised to put away enough money to cover three to six months' worth of living expenses, but for some people, even the higher end of that range won't be enough. If you're the sole breadwinner in a family with multiple dependents and you own a home, you're better off amassing a solid nine months of living expenses, or even a year's worth.
That said, for many people, hitting even that three-month target might seem like an impossible task. Say you typically spend $4,000 a month on living expenses. Coming up with even three times that amount means needing to save a total of $12,000 -- not a small number.
But here's the thing about emergency funds: Nobody ever said you have to build one overnight. It might take you a year, or several years, to accumulate enough cash to cover a full three months of expenses, but starting slowly and reaching that goal over time is better than giving up on it from the get-go.
Additionally, you'd be surprised at how much wiggle room your present budget might offer for savings. If you're currently making a car payment and maintaining a vehicle when you live somewhere with public transportation, you might shave $400 a month off your expenses by forgoing that automobile and taking the bus. And if you're looking to save $12,000, that move alone will get you to 40% of your goal.
Another option is to take on a side job to help build savings more quickly. If you pocket an additional $500 a month by working several nights and weekends, in two years, you'll have that $12,000 safety net.
2. I don't need to put so much money away
The point of an emergency fund is to cover any unexpected expense that your typical paycheck can't. But it's not just one-off incidents you need to worry about. You never know when you might get injured or fall ill, at which point you could be looking at not just a hefty medical bill but a number of months without an income. (Keep in mind that if you're employed full-time but go out on temporary disability, you'll typically collect just a fraction of your regular paycheck.)
While the commonly referenced savings target of three to six months might seem like overkill, you'd be amazed at how quickly you can burn through an emergency fund when it's your primary or, worse yet, only, source of income. And that's exactly why you need to sock away enough to cover several months of bills.
3. I have a stable job
One major reason to establish an emergency fund is to ensure that you have enough money to pay the bills in the event of a layoff. And though some workers may be more susceptible to job loss than others, the truth is that you never know when you might suddenly find yourself out of work.
Losing a job doesn't always boil down to company downsizing or poor performance. Sometimes, all it takes is a new management team to come in and shift things around or decide that your salary is no longer worth paying. Even if your company has never had layoffs, and you've consistently gotten glowing reviews, you can't discount the possibility of being let go -- which is why you really do need that emergency fund, regardless of how secure your job might seem.
Nobody ever said that building an emergency fund would be easy, but if you don't do it, you could end up in a situation where you're strapped for cash and need to resort to credit card debt to cover your basic bills. So if you're among the countless Americans who are way behind on savings, stop making excuses and start taking steps to sock some money away. You'll be thankful for it in the long run.
The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.