Why You Need an Emergency Fund
Have you ever suddenly lost your job? Or needed a surprise root canal? Perhaps your car broke down, or your refrigerator stopped working.
These unexpected moments in life can put you into debt if you’re not prepared. That’s why you need an emergency savings account to protect you.
What’s an emergency savings account? A savings account that is only to be tapped into when a real emergency arises. (And no, that new Kylie Jenner lip kit color is NOT a real emergency!)
Alexa Von Tobel, CEO of Learnvest, likes to call this a Freedom Fund because yes, you’ll be covered in an emergency like illness or injury, but it will also give you the freedom to pursue a new career or leave a toxic work environment. It will give you peace of mind, knowing that you don’t have to worry about paying your bills.
Experts say everyone should have 3-12 months worth of expenses saved in their emergency savings account. If you are self-employed, or have a family to support, you want to be on the higher end of that spectrum – and that amount can change depending on shifting circumstances. For instance, right now I have 6 months saved but I’ll want to increase that once I’m fully self-employed.
What constitutes an emergency:
- Medical or dental issuesJob loss
- Your car breaks down (and it’s your primary mode of transportation)
- Emergency home expenses (your roof is leaking, etc.)
- Bereavement expenses
How to build up your emergency savings:
The easiest way to save is to set it and forget it! Set up direct deposit from your paycheck, or have your bank make scheduled transfers. This way, you don’t have to think about it and you won’t miss the money. You’re way more likely to save this way.
- Choose a high yield savings account.
These days, you don’t get much back in terms of interest, especially from brick and mortar banks. Open a savings account with an online bank like Ally or Synchrony, and you can get up to 5 times the typical interest rate. Before switching to Ally, I only earned 20 cents a month in interest and now it’s more like $15. Every bit counts!
- Don’t connect it to your checking account.
You need your emergency savings to be accessible when an issue arises. You don’t want it to be in a CD or the stock market, where you can’t get to it easily. However, you don’t want the money to be too easy to spend, either. Put it in a place where you can’t transfer it to your checking account on a whim, but make sure it’s still in liquid form so the cash can actually be accessed in an emergency.
If you don’t have any savings built up yet, don’t feel discouraged! Everyone has to start somewhere. And as Elizabeth Gilbert said, “it doesn’t get done until you begin doing it.” Even if you can only save $10 a paycheck, that’s better than nothing. It will grow faster than you think. The more money you earn, or the less debt you have, the more you can save.
Maggie is a Certified Financial Education Instructor and financial coach for women. Her life’s mission is to give women the support and the tools that they need to take control of their money, break the taboo of discussing debt and income, and achieve their goals and dreams. She does this through one-on-one financial coaching, monthly Money Circle gatherings, and speaking engagements. Passionate about many issues affecting women, Maggie also serves on the board of Collective Action for Safe Spaces, is a member of Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan Washington’s Developing Leaders Program, and was trained as a salary negotiation facilitator by AAUW.