The average person would run out of money within 52 days if they were unable to work, research has showed.
People have monthly outgoings of about £1,445, but they have an average of just £2,474 set aside in accessible savings, according to Yorkshire Building Society.
The research found that 36% of people would run out of money within 11 days if they could not work, having less than £500 of savings. To make matters worse, nine out of 10 people have no form of income protection insurance to cover their bills if they were unable to work or lost their job.
A fifth of people admitted they had no idea how they would survive financially if they were unable to work, while others had unrealistic contingency plans.
Around 19% of people said they would manage on state benefits, despite the fact that they had weekly outgoings of around £334 and would be likely to receive just £75.40 a week in state benefits, although they may qualify for incapacity benefit on top of this.
A further 5% claimed they would sell their home in order to access money quickly, despite the fact that the state of the housing market makes it difficult to do this.
Among people who do have some form of insurance cover, the majority have policies that will only pay out if they die, with 47% having life insurance, while just 10% have income protection cover.
The research found that certain groups are more exposed than others, with people who are divorced the least likely to be able to cope if they lost their job, having savings that would last an average of just 35 days, while part-time workers would run out of money after 37 days.
Younger people also have lower levels of savings, with those aged between 35 and 44 having money that would last for just 39 days if they were unable to work, while 16 to 24 year olds could survive financially for just 41 days.
Tanya Jackson of Yorkshire Building Society, says: "In the current economic climate, this research paints an extremely alarming picture for those consumers without any protection products in place. Finances for many are already finely balanced due to the rising cost of living and the research reveals that both state benefits and savings are not viable options for the majority of consumers to rely upon for an adequate length of time."
Income protection insurance: News update: July 2008