Money

Here's how many Americans are living paycheck-to-paycheck

The Great Recession technically ended in 2009, but even eight years later many Americans are still coping with the aftershocks. Virtually half, or 49 percent, of all Americans are still living paycheck-to-paycheck.

That's according to a new survey conducted for GOBankingRates. Forty-one percent of men and 56 percent of women say that they are in that kind of precarious financial position. Meanwhile, a total of 61 percent — 52 percent of men and 69 percent of women — report that they don't have enough in an emergency fund to cover six months' worth of expenses.

Financial expert Suze Orman, meanwhile, thinks that even six months' worth of expenses isn't sufficient, since it's not enough to cushion you if you lose your job and can't find another one for a year or you must cope with a medical emergency. Given how expensive everything from housing to health care is these days, she says it's advisable to have at least eight-to-12 months' worth of living expenses in reserve.

As she puts it, "You need to know that you are going to be secure."

By that standard, a significant majority of Americans, particularly women, are in need of an intervention. Men are doing somewhat better, overall: More of them report having multiple streams of income (42 percent, as compared to only 30 percent of women) and an investment strategy that takes into account the possibility of another recession (39 percent, compared to only 26 percent of women).

"We think the main reason women have lower savings rates is because of the gender pay gap in many professions," says Sydney Champion, editor at GOBankingRates. "According to the American Association of University Women, women are typically paid 80 percent of what men are paid. In fact, we find this to be a common trend in our surveys that ask about savings habits. For example, in GOBankingRates' 2016 Savings Account survey & 2017 Retirement Savings survey, women also reported lower savings rates than men."

Many aspects of women's lives are also more expensive, thanks to what's been dubbed the "pink tax," which can contribute to their having less money to put away.

Age matters, too. Only 28 percent of 18-24-year-olds have enough in their emergency funds, versus 58 percent of 55-to-64-year-olds. Seniors, or those 65 and older, don't fare as well, though: Only 49 percent of them have enough saved for a rainy day. Likewise, an alarming 44 percent of seniors say they're living paycheck-to-paycheck.

If you're looking to get started on building an emergency fund, try making or reworking your budget and trying to find areas where you can dedicate more to saving and investing. Get into the habit of putting something away, even as little as $5 a day, as early as possible in order to take advantage of compound interest, in which any interest earned accrues interest on itself. That means a little money invested now can end up being a lot of money later.

Here are a few tips and tricks to help you get started:

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