Many Americans live paycheck to paycheck, carry revolving credit balances, and have little liquidity to absorb financial shocks (Angeletos et al. 2001; Kaplan and Violante 2014). One consequence of this financial vulnerability is that many individuals use a portion of their retirement savings during their working years. For every $1 that flows into 401(k)s and similar accounts, between 30¢ and 40¢ leaks out before retirement (Argento, Bryant, and Sabelhaus 2015). We explore the practical considerations and challenges of helping households accumulate liquid savings that can be deployed when urgent pre-retirement needs arise. We believe that this can be achieved cost effectively by automatically enrolling workers into an employer-sponsored payroll deduction “rainy day” or “emergency” savings account, and present three specific implementation options.
Beshears, John, James J. Choi, J. Mark Iwry, David C. John, David Laibson, and Brigitte C. Madrian. "Building Emergency Savings through Employer-Sponsored Rainy Day Savings Accounts." October 2017.