CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Nearly half of all state residents do not have enough savings to cover expenses for at least three months if they were to lose their jobs or suffer costly medical emergencies, according to a new report.
On Wednesday, the Corporation for Enterprise Development, a national nonprofit organization, released its 2013 Assets and Opportunity Scorecard, which found that 47 percent of West Virginian households are living in "liquid asset poverty."
That means they do not have enough savings to fall back on if they suffer a job loss or other catastrophic event and cannot work for at least three months.
The report said a family of four needs to have more than $5,762 in savings to get out of liquid asset poverty. That is just one measure of whether people make enough to meet basic needs.
About 15.5 percent of West Virginia households are asset poor, meaning their savings or the value of their durable assets are not enough to cover three months of expenses.
Home and car values are not included in the calculations.
Officials believe it still is a good measure of the financial health of residents, considering most would avoid selling their home or car to pay normal expenses.
"Liquid asset poverty is real and it is a challenge to West Virginians," said Sarah Vintorini, outreach manager for the West Virginia Alliance for Sustainable Families.
Vintorini's organization is one of several - including the Dunbar-based Kanawha Institute for Social Research and Action, or KISRA - that is working to help individuals and families become more financially secure.
"Financial stability and independence is the linchpin to overall family stability," Vintorini said.
She and others are working to teach people to build not only a comfortable safety net, but also to develop behaviors that can lead to greater savings. They try to work to help families save money for college, buy a home or enjoy a comfortable retirement.
"It's really the dream for families to turn that safety net into a ladder to greater success," she said.
But she admitted people have to learn to start small. She said sometimes the focus is to help people get out from under heavy debt burdens before they begin devoting money to savings.
The scorecard also ranked the state in other areas, including home ownership.