Tag Archives: emergency fund

Jan 29: Best from the blogosphere

One of the key pieces of advice financial writers offer readers is to fund and maintain an emergency fund to help you survive job loss, unexpected house repairs and other major expenses you haven’t budgeted for.

The Simple Dollar’s Trent Hamm lists 20 reasons why you need an emergency fund. Some situations that I hadn’t thought of until I read this blog are:

  • Your identity is stolen, locking you out of your credit cards and primary bank accounts.
  • You have a domestic crisis and have to move out of your home.
  • A relative or friend passes away suddenly in a different part of the country.
  • You get your dream job but it means a steep drop in pay.

Sean Cooper’s recent blog The Joys of Home Ownership: Replacing My Dishwasher illustrates precisely the kind of situation where an emergency fund is so valuable. Cooper rents the first floor of his house and lives in the basement apartment. A relatively innocuous email from his tenants in December notified him that the dishwasher was leaking. This problem snowballed into $2,000 of expenses for plumbing, other home repairs and a new dishwasher. Luckily he had cash on hand in his emergency account.

Debra Pangetsu on MyMoneyCoach offers 7 Steps to Saving Money in an Emergency Fund. For example, she suggests:

  •  Breaking your savings goal into smaller steps,
  • Open a separate account,
  • Automating deposits into your emergency account, and
  • Using the emergency savings only in an emergency.

How much do you need to save? Two cents blogger Kristin Wong says that experts don’t always agree. Money guru Dave Ramsey believes you should save for three to six months of living expenses in a liquid high yield savings account. Andrew, founder of Living Rich Cheaply agrees you should probably keep some money in a safe place, such as a savings account but he thinks six months of living expenses is a bit excessive. He would prefer to have more of his money invested in a mix of stocks and bonds. Nevertheless Suze Orman recommends eight months of basic costs because it usually takes that long to find another job if you are unemployed.

What’s an emergency? Ramsey says there are three questions to ask before you use your emergency fund. Is it unexpected? Is it necessary? Is it urgent? Money Under 30’s Choncé Maddox also says you should consider whether there is a better way to pay for the expenses and if the benefit of using the money outweighs the cost.

Do you follow blogs with terrific ideas for saving money that haven’t been mentioned in our weekly “Best from the blogosphere?” Share the information on http://wp.me/P1YR2T-JR and your name will be entered in a quarterly draw for a gift card.

Written by Sheryl Smolkin
Sheryl Smolkin LLB., LLM is a retired pension lawyer and President of Sheryl Smolkin & Associates Ltd. For over a decade, she has enjoyed a successful encore career as a freelance writer specializing in retirement, employee benefits and workplace issues. Sheryl and her husband Joel are empty-nesters, residing in Toronto with their cockapoo Rufus.

Jan 9: Best from the blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

Fireworks on Parliament Hill and across the country ushered in Canada’s sesquicentennial or 150th birthday. I’ll never forget babysitting on New Year’s Eve in 1967 and hearing Gordon Lightfoot’s Canadian Railroad Trilogy for the first time. It’s still one of my favourites!

As our contribution to Canada’s big birthday, in this space we will continue to direct you to the best from Canadian personal finance bloggers from coast to coast with an occasional foray south of the border. We hope you will let us know what you like and what we may have missed.

Recently Ed Rempel addressed the perennial question, Should I Delay CPP & OAS Until Age 70? and included some real life examples. While he illustrates that many Canadians can benefit from waiting until age 70 to start their government benefits, he agrees that if you are retired at 65 and have little income other than these two government pensions, you may have no option.

Barry Choi on “Money We Have Have” explores 5 differences between cheap and frugal people. He thinks calling a frugal person cheap is pretty insulting. “Frugal people understand the value of money and are willing to pay when it counts,” Choi says. “On the other hand, cheap people are only looking for ways to save money regardless of how it’s done.”

With credit card bills that reflect holiday excesses hitting mailboxes this month, many of us are looking for ways to save money. Canadian Finance Blog’s Tom Drake breaks down ways to save money both monthly and annually.

Think about your energy use and your water use to figure out ways to save money on your electricity billgas bill and water bill. Two other services that have many opportunities to cut back include the cable bill and cell phone bill.

“Reducing these five bills could easily save you over $100 a month, or more than $1,000 in a year. That’s not too shabby at all,” he notes.

For Alyssa Davies at “Mixed Up Money” an emergency fund (which she calls money to protect your other money) of three months pay is not enough. She has another account called her “comfy couch” for the months she overspends or under-saves.

When Davies wrote the blog she only had $583 in her comfy couch account but that small amount was all it took to make her feel comfortable. She says, “Whenever I need to use some of that money, I simply take it out, and replace the amount the next time I have available funds to do so. If you’re anything like me, you will want to find a magic number that allows you to breath without feeling like a giant horse is sitting on your chest.”

And finally, Retireby40 says he had a terrific 2016 and achieved 9 out of 11 goals. His approach for setting New Years goals is to set achievable objectives; make the goals specific and measurable; and, write them down so he can track his progress. Several of his goals for 2017 include increasing blog income to $36k, redesigning the blog and save $50,000 in tax-advantaged accounts.


Do you follow blogs with terrific ideas for saving money that haven’t been mentioned in our weekly “Best from the blogosphere?” Share the information on http://wp.me/P1YR2T-JR and your name will be entered in a quarterly draw for a gift card.

How to build up an emergency fund

By Sheryl Smolkin

You have an accident and your car is totaled. A parent or close friend is very ill and you need to fly to her side. You lose your job. Your furnace conks out in the middle of a Canadian winter. These are genuine emergencies when a little spare cash will go a long way to making your life easier.

That’s why along with paying yourself first and paying off debt, having an emergency fund of three to six months pay is part of the “holy trinity” of personal financial advice.  But if you are like almost half of Canadians polled late last year who said they are living paycheque to paycheque and would find it difficult to meet their financial obligations if their pay was delayed by just a week, where are you going to find the money to build up an emergency fund?

Here are some ideas:

  1. Take baby steps: Set low initial targets like $500 or $1000 and save $50 from each paycheck. You will have over $2,500 in a year.
  2. Automatic withdrawal: Have the savings you commit to automatically transferred into a separate account. You’ll never miss it.
  3. Extra money: If you have a good month and there are still a few dollars in the bank before your next pay cheque is deposited, transfer it to your emergency account.
  4. Review your budget: Few of us have cut all the fat out of our budgets or our spending habits. Whether it is forgoing your morning latte or packing a lunch a few days a week there are always ways to reduce expenses. Where feasible walking instead of driving is good for your health and your wallet.
  5. Better rates: When is the last time you checked to see if the amounts you are paying for car or house insurance are competitive? Can you live with higher deductibles? If you don’t do the research you could be leaving hundreds of dollars that belong in your emergency fund on the table.
  6. Quit smoking: If the average cost of a package of cigarettes is $12 and you smoke a pack a day you are burning up $4,380 a year. Save your health and save your money by quitting – not an easy task, but a worthwhile challenge.
  7. Save loonies and toonies: If you get one and two dollar coins in change when you break a larger bill, don’t spend them. When you get home put the money in an envelope and take it to the bank at regular intervals.
  8. Freelance: What are you good at? What do you enjoy doing? Think about how you can boost your emergency savings by doing something you love after work.
  9. Sell stuff: Clean out your closets. Have a garage sale or sell your oldies but goodies online. You will have less clutter and more money in the bank.
  10. Rent a room: Do you live near a university or college campus? If you are an empty nester, consider renting out a to a student room to help generate savings to top up your emergency account.

Whatever it takes to reach your goal of three to six months net pay in the bank, remember it is for a true emergency. That probably doesn’t include a new dress for an upcoming wedding when you have a close full of clothes or upgrading to the latest and greatest iPhone. When disaster hits, you will be glad you did.

Dec 21: Best from the blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

Recently Rob Carrick at the Globe and Mail wrote Prepare for the worst and make 2016 the year of the emergency fund. According to Carrick, the emergency fund is how you survive a financial setback without raiding your retirement savings, adding to your line of credit debt or borrowing from relatives. “Think of an emergency fund as insurance against a short-term setback that affects your long-term financial goals,” Carrick says.

20 Reasons Why You Need am Emergency Fund by Trent Hamm on thesimpledollar.com lists all of the obvious reasons (job loss, illness, urgent medical expenses) why you may need to tap into an emergency fund plus a few you never thought of. Some more obscure examples are:

  • Your identity is stolen, locking you out of your credit cards and/or bank account for a while until the issue gets straightened out.
  • An unexpected professional change forces you to relocate quickly.
  • A relative or friend of yours passes away suddenly in another part of the country (or the world).
  • You discover your partner is cheating on you, and for your own safety and peace of mind you have to pack your bags quickly and go.

How much do you need to save in your emergency fund? Typically financial experts suggest three to six months of fixed (as opposed to completely discretionary expenses). Emergency fund calculators from RBC and moneyunder30.com can help you figure out how much you should set aside.

Jason Heath at MoneySense is not a big fan of emergency funds if that means a substantial amount of cash sitting in a bank account doing nothing. He says, “I’m all for having the potential to cover 6 months of expenses in the event of an emergency. But I’d rather someone be able to do so through a combination of modest savings and ideally, a low-interest rate debt facility like a secured line of credit.”

Gail Vax-Oxlade believes the TFSA is a perfect place to stash your emergency fund. She says, “The best thing about the TFSA is its flexibility. You can take money out of your TFSA at any time for any purpose, without losing the contribution room, which makes this account the number one choice for socking away an emergency fund. So even if you take money out in one year, you can put it back the next, without affecting that year’s contribution limit ($5,500 for 2016).”

Do you follow blogs with terrific ideas for saving money that haven’t been mentioned in our weekly “Best from the blogosphere?” Share the information with us on http://wp.me/P1YR2T-JR and your name will be entered in a quarterly draw for a gift card.