Daniel Moyle, Flickr

If you lost your job tomorrow, how long would you be able to pay your bills?

New Jersey residents say they’re living paycheck to paycheck these days.

Could you weather five whole months without an income? A national survey finds that one-third of all Americans would immediately fall behind in their mortgage payments and utility bills.

While some residents, like Samantha from Brick, would be in big trouble, “I don’t know what I would do if I lost my job…I live paycheck to paycheck.”

Others, like Jim from Toms River, would be able to get by for a short time at least. “I have some savings to maybe make it through a month, but not like five or more. I can’t imagine that anybody has that kind of money with the economy these days.”

What should you do? Michael Kay, president of Financial Focus, an investment advisory firm in Livington, NJ, has some tips.

“First try to get rid of some of your debt..those high-interest rates can really add up over the years. Next, look at how much you spend each month. What is your total discretionary income and what do you have left for yourself.”

Kay says you should aim to have between six and nine months of living expenses set aside for emergencies.

“Once you have that target..then you can start to put a little bit away from each paycheck.”

He compared the emergency fund to a snowstorm. “Everyone goes rushing out to get supplies when you will probably be okay within a day or two…but at least its there and you have it. If you lose your job and you don’t have this money set aside to help you get by…you won’t be able to survive for very long.”