Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Nearly 20% of Americans surveyed say they have zero savings in case of emergency, a recent survey by bankrate.com reports.

Why it matters: With the jobs outnumbering the jobless, a lowering unemployment rate and wages trickling upward, Americans theoretically should have more money to put away for a rainy day fund. If an economic downturn were to occur, the data shows only a small fraction of Americans would be able to comfortably maintain their lifestyle.

By the numbers: 29% of the U.S. say they have enough emergency savings to last them six months or more — an overwhelming majority of respondents, 62%, are "very or somewhat comfortable with their level of emergency savings."

  • Lower-income households are more likely to have no emergency funds, but 27% of lowest-income households have enough savings to last them at least three months.
  • Americans lost $19.4 trillion worth of wealth during the Great Recession, per the Treasury Department.
  • Even though 23% of people with zero savings is a seven-year low, people are saving the same amount as they were in 2010.

The big picture: Putting money away in a checking, savings or money market account in a strengthening economy is not that simple. The bankrate.com survey says only 22% of millennials have six months or more saved in an emergency fund. Many want to save in case of an economic downturn, but there are other priorities, Greg McBride, CFA for bankrate.com, tells Axios.

  • Debt is one of the biggest daily concerns for 68% of millennials, according to a poll by Kickstand with Hometap. Credit card and student debt for millennials is seven times more of a priority than baby boomers.
  • Millennials are also inadequately focused on retirement savings. Many believe Social Security will not be reliable.

Between the lines: Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell raised interest rates in June and made the case in June for why it's in the U.S.'s best interest to raise rates a few more times in 2018.

  • "With unemployment low and expected to decline further, inflation close to our objective, and the risks to the outlook roughly balanced, the case for continued gradual increases in the federal funds rate is strong," Powell said in a two-day policy meeting.
  • But, there is concern the hikes may undercut the wage growth that Americans are barely starting to see.
  • "Higher interest rates are benefitting the people who have savings. People who have debt and no savings will not benefit," McBride said.

Go deeper:

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