According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, nearly half of all Americans are considered “financially fragile.” What does that mean? It means they couldn’t come up with $2,000 if they needed to unexpectedly in the next month, or would have to resort to desperate measures to come up with the money.
What I found most interesting about the paper is that you’d think it would just be a low-income problem. It’s not. A surprising number of middle class families – including 25 percent of those earning between $75,000 and $100,000 — are also “fragile.” What’s even more distressing is that it is a bigger problem in America than in many other countries.
So, how do we fix it? According to Jean Chatsky, who’s done the research, if you want to save money – and keep it out of reach, you must move it out of your spending account and into a place where there is a perceived barrier to getting at it. That’s why 401K’s work so well, because you can’t get at the money once it’s moved out of your paycheck.
Internet banking is a good choice to replicate this affect. (Ally Bank and ING Direct are both good choices. They don’t have minimum account fees AND they pay higher than average interest rates.) In order to get your money out, you have to transfer the money back to your checking account – which takes a couple of days. There in lies the barrier. You’re really going to have to think about moving that money before you actually make the move, and wait a few days for the cash.
Additionally, you should keep a separate account for emergencies so that you can keep tabs of how much you’re saving in your emergency fund. Lumping it all together with other money for savings will give you a false sense of how much money you actually have available for emergencies.