If you stopped working and had to live off what you had in the bank, could you do it?
For many Americans, the answer is a definite "no."
Nearly a third of all workers polled in a recent survey said they have less than a thousand dollars in savings. Another third say they have some money saved, but it's not more than $25,000. And fewer and fewer people are setting money aside for retirement.
These figures come from a study released Tuesday by the Employee Benefit Research Institute, a nonprofit research organization. EBRI's report suggests that the economic pain of the present moment is going to echo into the future for many Americans -- that today's slow job market and underwhelming wage growth are going to translate, down the line, into a population unprepared to leave the workforce.
About one in every eight people polled by EBRI said they're not at all confident that they'll be able to cover their basic expenses once they retire.
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If the present is any guide, these workers are right to be pessimistic. Over nine million retirees can't afford basic living expenses right now, according to a recent report from the group Wider Opportunities for Women.
The difficulties of putting money aside -- especially in an environment where more than 12 million people are out of work, and employees who want to get a raise have little leverage to do so -- have become especially apparent in recent months. In January, the Corporation for Enterprise Development, a nonprofit group, reported that more than 40 percent of all U.S. households have so little in the way of savings that one financial emergency is all it would take to put them below the poverty line.
And people who suffer such an emergency might find that there's no safety net in place to help them. A federal initiative known as the Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program, which aims to keep people from losing their homes, is due to come to an end this year -- and analysts at the National Alliance to End Homelessness say that more people could soon be living on the street as a result.