If you got laid off tomorrow, would you be OK, financially? A new Gallup poll shows that 29 percent of American workers would expect to experience “significant financial hardship” within one month of losing their job. Fourteen percent say they would only last one week.
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Of course, some of this is not exactly the fault of workers. Real wages are down 7.7 percent since 2006. Combine that with unemployment rates that still hover around 6.7 percent, plus persistent long-term unemployment, and you have a landscape that makes it difficult to save cash for a rainy day.
On the other hand, Gallup’s data shows that many of us might think that rainy days will never come — the evidence of the past few years to the contrary.
“One reason many American workers may not be prepared financially for a job loss is they think it is unlikely to happen to them,” writes Jeffrey M. Jones at Gallup.com. “Sixteen percent of workers say they are “very” (5%) or “fairly” (11%) likely to lose their job in the next 12 months. That percentage is down from a peak of 21% in 2010, a year of high unemployment, but has averaged 14% since Gallup first asked the question in 1975.”
Michael De Groote at Deseret News notes that the poll only checks perception, not actual preparation, so there’s no way to extrapolate people’s real financial cushion from their sense of how long they could last in the face of a major reversal.
Still, with financial advisers like Suze Orman telling people to save as much as eight months’ worth of expenses for an emergency fund, and the actual raw materials of said fund (i.e. wages) at a relative low, it’s easy to see why workers might feel unprepared.
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