America's image is that of a place where anyone can grow up to be president, and even a college dropout can found a multibillion-dollar empire.
But one need only look at our finances to see not everyone gets out of the gate on equal footing. Overall, consumer household income has continually dropped over the the last decade, and at the same time, the costs of basic necessities like health insurance, housing, and education have continued to soar.
What has resulted is a deep divide between the rich and poor, and even more people -- both low- and middle-income earners -- who find themselves unable to save for even short-term emergencies.
A sobering new report by the Corporation for Enterprise Development shows nearly half of U.S. households (132.1 million people) wouldn't last three months if they ran into bumps in the road like unemployment, natural disasters, or a medical emergency.
In fact, more than 30 percent don't have a savings account at all, and another 8 percent don't even bank, period.
Using the CFED's detailed analysis of each state's financial security, we homed in on the 10 places where Americans would be least likely to cope in the face of unexpected disasters.
The 10 States with the Most People Living on the Edge of Financial Ruin
Louisiana arguably has no shortage of consumers who are aware of the damage that unexpected disasters like hurricanes can cause. Yet the state ranks tenth-worst for residents' ability to reach financial stability.
Nearly half of adults are considered liquid asset poor, and about 40 percent have no savings accounts to rely on in times of need.
The average worker takes home about $45,000 in salary, but nearly one-third of jobs on the market are considered low-wage by the CFED.
Consumers carry about $7,400 in credit card debt, and more than two-thirds have subprime borrower status, which only ups the risk factor with unfavorable interest rates and fees.
The state is also home to nearly 20 percent of uninsured consumers, 7 percent of whom are low-income children.
In New Mexico, more than two-thirds of households have a savings account, but about half are still considered liquid asset poor.
That could have much to do with debt burdens. The average consumer carries $8,055 in credit card debt, but 62 percent of adults have subprime credit, which means they're subjected to high interest rates that can make it even tougher to pay down those debts.
What's more, about one-third of jobs in the state are considered "low-wage," and 24 percent of adults are either unemployed or underemployed.
The state has a 23 percent rate of uninsured consumers, about half of whom are low-income children.
Tennessee's unemployment rate (9.2 percent) isn't the highest among the financially insecure states on this list, but the $46,000 that most of its workers take home each year clearly isn't enough to cover basic necessities like insurance and college education.
About 17 percent of the state's residents are uninsured (8.1 percent of low-income children), and just 24 percent boast a four-year degree.
In place of savings (40 percent have no savings account), the average resident carries $9,100 in credit debt.
Most financial security measures might look at income-to-debt ratio and call it a day, but the rate of residents who are insured can be a telling sign of trouble as well.
In North Carolina, nearly 19 percent are without insurance, including 10.4 percent of low-income children. And given the fact that just 66 percent hold a savings account, chances are medical emergencies would be tough to cover for the average family.
The average salary is $45,300, but half the state's residents are still considered liquid asset poor.
Arkansans have at least one thing going for them -- a relatively low amount of credit card debt. The average adult carries just over $6,376 on plastic, but with an average take-home pay of $41,747, chances are they struggle to make payments.
More than half the state is considered liquid asset poor, and less than half have a savings account at all.
And though one-in-five residents have a four-year degree, their efforts cost them $23,000 on average.
Sunshine it may have, but one thing Florida definitely lacks is residents with financial security.
More than half the state is considered liquid asset poor, and one-third of households scrape by without a savings account to tap in times of need.
To cope, the average resident carries nearly $12,000 in credit card debt, and those who invest in college degrees walk away with another $23,000 in loan debt. The state also fared the worst in credit delinquency rates for borrowers (about 7 percent).
While the Southeast steeled itself against a chain of tornadoes and severe thunderstorms last week, chances are Mississippians had more to worry about than most.
Only 51 percent of the state's residents have a savings account, and unless that means the other half are stuffing wads of cash under their mattresses, chances are they wouldn't be ready for that kind of potential damage.
Nearly 58 percent are considered liquid asset poor, which is likely only made worse by a high unemployment rate (10.5 percent) and low take-home pay ($39,300 on average).
On the positive side, Mississippi is among 46 states that have added a personal finance literacy course to their K-12 curriculum. Though with the average college student graduating with $23,000 in debt, chances are no class could prepare them to take on that kind of debt load.
More than half of Nevada's population would struggle to make ends meet if faced with a financially-draining emergency.
The average resident is carrying a whopping $10,670 in credit card debt, and just 68.5 percent of households even have a savings account. And 25 percent of people live without insurance -- nearly all of whom are low-income children (23.1 percent).
According to CFED, Nevada was one of two states to end funding for public health programs in 2011 that would have expanded public health insurance to adults with incomes up to 200 percent of the poverty line.
Add to those findings the state's staggering 13.1 percent unemployment rate, and the fact that the average college alumnus leaves with nearly $20,000 in loan debt, and it's easily one of the worst environments for building a financially secure future.