Six weeks — not six months — of take-home pay should be your new savings goal for an emergency fund.
Conventional wisdom traditionally says that you should have at least three to six (ideally nine) months of your salary saved for emergencies, such as a job loss or serious health troubles. But a new income analysis conducted by JPMorgan Chase that looked at six million American checking accounts now suggests a lower amount.
Most Americans don't even have that much saved, however. A full two-thirds of Americans do not have six weeks worth of pay saved, the report found. Forget six months.
According to the study, to survive a simultaneous increase in expenses and dip in earnings, a middle-income family should have $5,000 saved. However, most of these families have just $2,000 saved and ready in the case of an emergency. The recommended emergency fund figure dips to $2,500 for lower-income families, who reported having closer to only $700 saved, the New York Times reported.
What if you're really struggling to build up an emergency fund? Aim to save just three weeks of your pay instead of six — it's still enough money to help a family get through a period of higher expenses or drop in income, the study shows.
You're not alone if you haven't been saving: 53% of Americans don't have an emergency fund at all, including most people over 50, a new AARP study found. And it's not just low earners: a quarter of people making more than $150,000 don't have any rainy day savings, AARP reports.
If you're behind on your emergency savings, don't stress: start out saving a small amount from every paycheck by automating transfers from your checking account to your savings account. Don't underestimate how helpful new digital tools like budgeting and expense-tracking apps can be, either. The sooner you start, the sooner you'll hit your goal.