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.
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|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.|