Are you wondering why you should have an emergency fund? I am sure you’ve heard it many times before, it’s considered one of the most important aspects of successful money management – having an emergency fund. An emergency fund is where you stash cash so you’re prepared for those unexpected emergencies that life throws at you every now and then. You know, the ones that typically come in groups of three.
Often creating an emergency fund is recommended as a first step to managing your way out of debt. This is because before you can successfully pay off all your debt, you need to stop accumulating more of it. An emergency fund is a means of minimizing your need to use credit (rack up debt) in an emergency.
However, regardless of where you sit financially having an emergency fund is always considered a money management best practice.
Some of the most common uses for an emergency fund are:
- Job loss – so you don’t have to borrow money from mom and dad, or worse yet move back in with them.
- Unexpected home repairs – a leaky roof, a broken window or your furnace, A/C, or refrigerator going on the fritz.
- Medical or dental emergencies.
- Car problems – a roadside tow, unplanned maintenance like a faulty transmission or engine repair.
- Unplanned travel expenses due to a family crisis.
Regardless of the event, an emergency fund is a means of keeping you from using credit and accumulating more debt.
How Much of an Emergency Fund Should You Have?
There are a lot of different viewpoints on how much of a cash reserve you should have, in general the perspective is six months. This perspective is based on the job loss scenario, and how long it will take for you to find a new job. Jobs or careers that are always in high demand like sales positions can typically get by with a minimal cash reserve. Jobs in fields that are less prevalent will probably require a larger emergency fund. Regardless of your situation or perspective no one will argue that the larger the emergency fund the better.
When estimating how much of an emergency fund you should have, consider the following monthly expenses.
- Housing – mortgage or rent
- Food and personal expenses
- Health insurance
- Debt payments
Don’t include anything thing that you wouldn’t give up if you experienced a job loss (date night, eating out…), stick to what’s most important. Take your monthly expenses multiply them by six months and that’s what you should have in your emergency fund.
The Benefits of Having an Emergency Fund
The obvious benefit of having an emergency fund is that it allows you to forego the use of credit cards or bank loans to pay for emergency expenses. A means of staying out of debt. However, the not so talked about benefits are the ones that impact you emotionally and behaviorally.
When you have an emergency fund to fall back on you benefit from:
- Reduced stress – you worry less about an unplanned expense and your ability to pay for them.
- Confidence – the feeling you get when you are in control of your finances.
- Empowered – if you’re not worrying about expenses and debt then guess what, you can focus on other ways to improve your overall financial position. You feel empowered to find more ways to save money or start investing.
Having an emergency fund is power. The power to help you successfully manage the unexpected financial events that life can throw at you.
From an FTP perspective an emergency fund is not an option, it’s a requirement for successful money management. If you’re struggling to establish an emergency fund be sure to read my previous post on how you can build up your emergency fund fast.
- FTP Workbook
- Filling The Pig – More Cash, simple strategies for saving more money.
- Think Different About Your Money free email course, 9 tips on managing debt, saving money and investing.
Has your emergency fund saved you from an unexpected event? Comment below.