Nearly six years after the Great Recession, a clear majority of American families say they feel unprepared for a financial emergency.

The Pew Charitable Trusts' poll of 7,000 U.S. households finds that 57 percent don't consider themselves ready for a sudden financial setback, 55 percent say they break even or spend more than they make each month, and a third have no savings.

"Despite a steady economic recovery, many Americans continue to feel vulnerable," says Erin Currier, director of Pew's financial security and mobility project.

Still, the survey notes signs of improvement: 56 percent rate their own financial situation as positive, up from 55 percent on the eve of the recession in 2007; 27 percent give the economy a positive grade, equal to pre-recession levels.