One-half of all Americans are effectively living paycheck to paycheck, having less than $500 set aside for emergency expenditure, according to a survey.
The report, released by HomeServe USA, revealed that 19 percent of Americans have no savings at all while a further 31 percent have less than $500, according to MarketWatch.
In a separate study, insurance company MetLife found that 49 percent of employees are "concerned, anxious or fearful about their current financial well-being."
Emergency costs can include money needed for a new car or for medical bills.
Wanda Battle, who has worked as a registered nurse for four decades, was recently faced with a $100,000 medical bill after visiting the emergency room on several occasions due to migraines and mini-strokes.
"There were times I couldn't work," Battle said, according to MarketWatch. "I have not held a job that is continuous."
Increasing debt levels make it harder for money to be set aside. The New York Federal Reserve predicted April 10 that total household debt will reach its previous historic high of $12.68 trillion this year. The last time it rose to this level was in 2008, in the middle of the Great Recession.
Slightly more than one-fourth of respondents in the HomeServe survey stated they had more than $8,000 in savings for unexpected costs. The rate increased among those aged over 65, with 48 percent saying they had more than $8,000 in savings.
The difficulty of saving is compounded for younger workers due to wage stagnation and wage declines. An unpublished analysis of Census Bureau data by Georgetown University revealed that wages for many college graduates have dropped since the 2007-09 economic recession.
Biology graduates earned an average of $31,000 for an entry-level position in 2015, down $4,000 from five years earlier. Pay rates for science and business graduates were also down.
"It has been like this for the past five, six years now," Ban Cheah, a Georgetown research professor, told Bloomberg. "It's a little depressing."
The picture was somewhat brighter for more experienced workers, with pay rates remaining stable since the recession for those aged 35-54.
In addition, researchers found that those with a graduate degree could expect to earn substantially more than people with an undergraduate qualification.
"Just getting a degree doesn't matter anymore," Jeff Selingo, who writes about higher education and is a professor at Arizona State University, told Bloomberg. "What matters more are the undergraduate experiences that you have."