We're Finally Making Progress on Emergency Savings

Credit card debt is no joke. It doesn't just create anxiety, it actively saps away our happiness. We also feel such a sense of urgency about it that we often neglect other financial planning — but the good news is, we're getting on the right track.

The website Bankrate just released its latest Financial Security Index survey, which shows a heartening development: Nearly 6 in 10 Americans currently have more saved up in an emergency fund account than they have credit card debt. Given that the average card-holding U.S. adult owes more than $5,800, that's pretty impressive. Not only that, but millennials have proven they're most concerned with building emergency savings, with 61 percent of respondents saying it was their highest financial priority.

Of course, the numbers aren't universally good. About 1 in 5 respondents owe more on their credit cards than they have saved for an emergency, while 12 percent said that while they don't have credit card debt, they don't have emergency savings either. It's both no surprise and a perilous situation in the short and long term. With more seniors than ever stuck as eternal workers due to lack of retirement savings, it's incumbent upon all of us to figure out the best way to build up our rainy day funds.

It's true, the system still makes this an uphill battle for many. But research has found some workarounds for incentivizing saving when it feels like every cent you earn goes toward surviving. First, look into balance forgiveness programs for credit card debt. A Princeton University study found that paying down bigger chunks of your debt upfront can make you more likely to finish a repayment plan. Also, figure out ways to make saving fun. It's counterintuitive, maybe, but there's a reason we work to figure out and finish games more than straight instructions. Finally, see if your credit card company offers a zero-interest option. The less you have to worry about paying off interest, the more you can focus on getting your balance to zero.