Business

Right now, do you have $400?

MCT

If you had to, could you come up with $400 for an emergency?

Surprisingly, nearly half of Americans said they could not, according to the latest Federal Reserve Board survey.

They are considered "financially fragile." They may appear to be financially well off -- perhaps with a nice car, big home or upscale wardrobe -- but fall within the 47 percent who would be unable to pull out $400 for an emergency. They said they would either do without or borrow or sell something to get that much money.

Here in Gulfport, a random sample of residents seems to reflect the survey.

Local construction worker Christian Lesso said he is one of the 47 percent. If he were forced to come up with $400 today for an emergency, he said he would have to do what many others do -- borrow.

Patience Pierce, who works the front desk at a casino, illustrated just what living paycheck to paycheck means.

When asked if she would be able to get $400 in a pinch, she paused to think about it for a second, then said "Yes," but with a caveat.

"I would. But that's only because I just got paid," she said.

By their very nature, emergencies don't have a schedule.

"If it was later into the week," Pierce said, "I'd be in trouble. I'd have to borrow money."

The survey went on to cite a Pew Charitable Trust study, which found 55 percent of households didn't have enough liquid savings to replace a month's worth of lost income. Seventy-one percent said they were concerned about having enough money to cover everyday expenses.

Though per capita income nationally was $28,555 in 2014, it was $20,340 in Gulfport, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Gulfport residents in poverty total 25.5 percent, or 10.7 percent higher than the national average.

When it comes to financial hardship, debt is often under-reported or not reported at all.

Belinda Evans, a procurement assistant at Northrop Grumman, finds herself within the 53 percent of Americans who would be able to come up with $400. It's not by accident. She said she takes saving money very seriously.

"Anything can happen. That's why you need to save. It could be a flat tire or something else; you never know," she said. Evans said she didn't learn about managing finances from her parents. It was something she learned from experience. She has instructed her daughter Tiffany to do the same.

"You always want to save. You have to have a rainy-day fund. That's one of the things I've taught my daughter," she said.

Lela Rainey manages the carousel at Edgewater Mall. Her husband is retired and receives a pension. She said the two have gotten in a habit of putting money away to visit their grandchildren.

"We have a rainy-day fund. It's to visit our grandkids in upstate New York, but it could be used for emergencies," she said.

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