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Rainy-Day Emergency Savings Segment Summary September 2015

Source: 2014–15 MacroMonitor

Learn more: MacroMonitor subscribers may contact us to learn more about households that save for an emergency.

According to the US Bureau of Economic Analysis reported by Trading Economics, US personal-savings rates reached an "all time high of 17 percent" in 1975. As of May 2015, personal-savings rates were at 5.1%—somewhat lower than in February 2015 (5.7%) but topping the "record low of 1.9 percent in July 2005." The 2014–15 MacroMonitor reports that slightly more than one-half of US households have any savings account; the mean amount in savings is $17K. Saving for a rainy-day emergency is a goal for 40% of households; the mean amount in their savings ($18K) will be insufficient to cover many emergencies such as major medical expenses or a six- to eight-month living-expense fund in case of a job loss. Households that focus primarily on saving for a rainy day (10%) are even more challenged; 66% have a savings account but have a mean amount in savings of only $9K. This summary is about the 10% of households that focus on building their emergency savings, because financial institutions may have several business-growth opportunities with these households.


In many ways, households with a primary focus on saving for a rainy-day emergency reflect all US households; they are, however, overrepresented at the "tails" of the age distribution. For example, 28% are Millennials and 24% are members of the Silent and Greatest Generations. In total, of these households:

  • Half the heads are age 50 and older; their mean age, however, is roughly the same as for all households (age 52 in comparison with age 51).
  • One-third of the heads are retired.
  • One-quarter of the heads are veterans of the United States military—they are more likely than all household heads to be veterans.
  • Two in five households are single-headed households.
  • About one-third have $30,000 or less in total annual household income; half have more than $50,000.
  • Two in five heads have a high-school diploma or less; one-third of the heads have a four-year degree or higher.
  • The households are no more or less likely than all households to support dependent children, dependent adults, or Boomerang kids.
  • Of households with children, they are more likely than all households to have children between the ages of 0 and 11.
  • The households are average for owning a single-family home (63%); for roughly one-third of these households, the home is a first home.


The financial profile of households for which the primary saving goal is for a rainy- day emergency can be misleading, because the profile combines households just starting out and households living on a fixed income. For example:

  • Two-thirds of these households have a savings account, but the mean amount ($9K) in the account is well below that for all households ($17K).
  • These households are less likely than all households to hold any type of investment account or to own a retail stock or bond mutual fund.
  • Their mean balance in retirement accounts is less than for all households ($114K versus $211K).
  • Their mean balances for all assets are lower, and their mean liability balance is somewhat higher, than for all households; their net worth is $199K, in comparison with $387K for all households.
  • Almost all (91%) currently use a bank; 83% name a bank as their primary institution—the average for all households. However, only 65% prefer a bank as their primary institution. Only 29% trust a bank a great deal.
  • In a typical month, 65% of households use a drive-through facility, 63% use the internet to connect to a financial institution, 30% use an "app" to access their account or institution, and half speak with a teller for a routine transaction (all average behaviors).

Financial Attitudes and Interesting Tidbits

Households with a primary goal of rainy-day savings are financially cautious and risk averse. Few (only 15%) are satisfied with their household's current financial situation. However, half are somewhat confident in their household's financial strategy. No more or less likely than all households to do so, almost three-quarters would put a windfall of $25,000 into savings or investments. They are more likely than all households:

  • To struggle to make ends meet (one-third do so)
  • To have overspent in the past as a result of credit cards; two in five households currently use debit, rather then credit, cards to control spending
  • To be concerned about the impact of inflation on retirement income
  • To never borrow against the equity in their home
  • To be likely to borrow money to buy a vehicle in the next 12 months (more than one-third anticipate doing so)
  • To believe that buying life insurance is a good way to protect their family's lifestyle.


Many households that can save do so; some households that could save for a rainy day don't. In particular, young households with many competing needs and priorities don't save for a rainy-day emergency—possibly because they have never learned the importance of doing so or because they don't think they can manage to do so. Millennials represent a business opportunity for various types of financial institutions. Limited resources make it difficult for many young households to establish an account specifically for emergency savings. However, a savings account with automatic transfer, an annual skip-a-month-free-of-charge option, and a bonus interest payment for making all contributions in a year could be the right combination to provide incentive to these households to do so. The data suggest that in addition to saving for emergencies, these households have interest in vehicle-installment loans, debt-consolidation advice and loans, home-improvement loans, and life insurance. Further analysis about younger households that want to save for a rainy-day emergency is necessary to size the market for specific opportunities.

MacroMonitor subscribers may request a more in-depth profile of this segment and an on-site presentation of these findings and a Q&A session for a small additional fee.