For many Americans, a broken-down car or out-of-the-blue medical cost can mean going into debt.
That's because a whopping 66 million Americans have absolutely no emergency savings, so even a minor setback can result in credit card charges that can't be paid off or in having to take on a personal loan.
One group of Americans, however, are putting away more than other generations to make sure they're prepared: millennials.
According to a new survey from Earnest, Amino and Ipsos, 68 percent of millennials could cover a $500 emergency without going into debt, while only 43 percent of all Americans can say the same.
While this is good news for 18-to-34 year olds, it doesn't tell the whole story. Just 31 percent of millennials are contributing to a retirement account , a crucial financial step to be prepared for the future.
Still, it's a start.
Most experts recommend setting aside three-to-six months' worth of living expenses in an emergency fund, while others, notably Suze Orman, financial expert and former CNBC television host, contend that it's smarter to aim for eight-to-12 months' worth.
Orman says that three-to-six months' worth of expenses isn't enough to feel safe. What if you lose your job and can't find another one for a year? What if you're hit with an out-of-the-blue medical emergency? A million potential scenarios could drain your savings without warning, so it's better to have at least eight-to-12 months' worth of living expenses squirrelled away.
"You need to know that you are going to be secure," she tells CNBC Make It .
"Go back to 2007," she says. "You lost your job, you lost everything, you were working on this tech thing and all the startups went down. Nobody had any money to invest, nobody wanted to touch anything, nobody wanted to IPO because the markets were going down and you couldn't find anything to do.
"Think it took you just three months to find another job? Think it took you six months to find another job?"
Being prepared to handle the unexpected matters, she says. "It's not just about the economy. What if you get sick? What if you're hit by a car? What if something happens crazy in this world? We live in the craziest world I've ever seen in my life right now," says Orman. "And the only way you can take craziness out of that if for you to make yourself secure."
If you're ready to follow her advice, and millennials' lead, and bulk up your savings, consider reworking your budget and trying to find areas where you can dedicate more to banking and investing. Check out these six easy ways to start putting away more money and see if there are any small expenses you can give up .
Like this story? Like CNBC Make It on Facebook!
- Oprah Winfrey visited a bank for the first time since 1988 to deposit $2 million
- Here's a budget breakdown of a couple that makes $200,000 a year and yet is scraping by
- I live in NYC and still save money—here's the trick that helps me do it