This brief explores how Americans think about their savings; how policymakers might enable diverse families to better prepare for, handle, and recover from financial challenges; and related economic factors that should be considered to ensure that policies and programs respond to families’ needs. These findings highlight that successful policy must be grounded in families’ real needs and behaviours and offer savings opportunities that are safe, affordable, easy, and relevant. Current policy emphasizes households’ longterm needs, such as retirement and homeownership. But saving for emergencies is fundamentally different. Rather than accumulating a large reserve over a long time, short-term, security-focused initiatives require families to build savings, spend them judiciously, then rebuild the cushion repeatedly.