Are you liquid-asset poor?

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If you have a nice house and a nice car (or two),  you and your spouse both work, the fam has all the latest “stuff” and you even contribute to a 401(k), you’re doing OK, right? 

If you have no easily accessible cash savings, that assumption may be wrong.

None of these “things” easily or quickly convert to cash in an emergency. According to the 2012 Assets & Opportunity Scorecard, released by the Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group Corporation for Enterprise Development, there’s a new name for middle class households that don’t have enough cash savings to financially weather a medical emergency or job loss: liquid-asset poor.  The report found 43 percent — 127.5 million American households — are one paycheck away from a financial disaster.

Some other disturbing report findings:

  • Forty-six percent of employers do not offer health care.
  • Fifty-five percent of workers do not have or do not participate in a retirement plan.
  • Fifty-six percent of consumers have subprime credit scores.

Earlier this week, I wrote a post about a savings plan where every 1 percent of cash savings counts. And this is especially true of the liquid-asset poor, which are often dual-income spouses spending on lifestyle instead of saving cash for an emergency.

“Spending beyond your cash and into debt is normal in our culture, so we put off saving until later,” says Dave Ramsey, author of “The Total Money Makeover.”  “The truth is, there is never a quick or easy way to financial safety and ‘later’ comes sooner than you think.”

Ramsey says once you’ve reached the point of being sick of the way you’re handling your money, the next step is to get intense about changing it. “Personal finance is 80 percent behavior and 20 percent head knowledge. Don’t let anything stand in the way of making positive changes.”

To avoid being liquid-asset poor, bills and cash savings must come first in your budget. But it takes discipline and intensity, Ramsey says.

Confession time:  What do you spend money on when you should be paying a bill, paying down debt or saving the cash instead?

Written by
Naomi Mannino
Contributing writer
Naomi Mannino is a contributing writer at Bankrate. Naomi writes about loans and banking.