WASHINGTON (AP) _ Only 40 percent of Americans have separate savings for an emergency such as car repairs or urgent dental work, and the young, poor and minorities are the least likely to have such funds, a survey released Monday shows.
Americans are notoriously poor savers in general. The report issued by the Consumer Federation of America also found that 81 percent of those surveyed said they believe their rainy-day savings would be sufficient to cover emergency expenses this year.
``The ability of Americans to cover unexpected expenses ... greatly depends on their having an emergency savings fund,'' Stephen Brobeck, the consumer group's executive director, said in a statement. ``Those with a fund are highly likely to be able to afford these expenditures.''
They also will be less dependent on high-cost credit such as payday loans or credit cards in an emergency, he said.
The best way to save for an emergency is with periodic deposits to a savings account, mutual fund or retirement fund, the federation noted.
The survey of about 1,000 people was made public during America Saves Week, being marked by an array of federal agencies and private organizations, and aimed at persuading more low- and moderate-income people to open savings accounts. Participating banks and savings institutions have set a goal of opening about 10,000 new savings accounts.
The survey, taken during the week of Feb. 5, also showed that:
_Only 19 percent of those aged 18-24 have separate emergency funds.
_Only 23 percent of people with less than $25,000 in annual household income have them.
_Thirty-one percent of African Americans and 32 percent of Hispanics have them.
_By contrast, 58 percent of respondents with annual income of $75,000 or more have emergency funds.
A government report in early February found that Americans are saving at the lowest level since the Depression of the 1930s _ a potential danger for the millions of baby boomers getting ready to retire. The nation's personal savings rate for 2006 was a negative 1 percent, the worst showing in 73 years.
The negative rate means people are spending all the money they have left after paying taxes _ and then some. They are dipping into savings or increasing their borrowing to cover current spending.