Blogger Kara Perez discusses the importance of an emergency fund.
In the words of Ferris Bueller, life comes at you fast. That’s why you want your finances to be prepared for whatever curveball comes your way. Personal finance 101 says to build an emergency fund with three to six months’ worth of living expenses in it, to make it easier to handle those curveballs.
It can be hard to save, though, when there’s no specific purpose. Knowing you’re hedging your bets against some future crisis is a good reason, but is it a motivating reason? Sometimes not.
Putting a face on the reason you’re saving will help you keep at it, and help you hone in on a number that you want to reach in savings.
If you drive a beater of a car, you know that you’ll need more repairs than someone driving a 2017 Mercedes. If you have a pet, you know they’ll need their shots. You can figure out costs and save accordingly.
We’re all living different lives, but we all have guaranteed curveballs: a sudden move, a health crisis, a last-minute need to travel. If something like this happened today, would you be financially prepared?
Reason for an Emergency Fund 1: A Sudden Move
Your 20s will probably be the decade you move around most. Post-college, you might move for a new job, or to further your education—if you decide to go for that Ph.D. You might move afterwards, finding your college town isn’t right for your entrepreneurial motives. A break up with your partner could leave you needing a new apartment—even if it’s in the same city. A new job or a promotion could see you packing up shop.
Whatever the reason, moving on short notice will take a chunk of cash. Moving requires a safety deposit, first- and last month’s rent, fees for housing applications and background checks. It may also include a pet deposit and various expenses like movers or a truck rental.
That can be a lot of money to pull out of thin air. Having an emergency fund that’s prepared for a sudden move will smooth the transition considerably. Moving costs vary drastically depending on area and type of housing you’re looking into. For example, according to Moving.com, the cost of moving a studio apartment from Boston to Cambridge is close to $700. The cost to move a five-bedroom house the same distance can go as high as $2,300.
Reason for an Emergency Fund 2: A Health Crisis
Health is the number-one thing we can’t take for granted. Anyone can get into an accident, or develop an illness without any warning. Health crises are the great equalizer.
Grownups should be prepared to absorb a trip to the emergency room within their emergency fund. Something like the slip of a knife in the kitchen can land a Grownup in the hospital with an unexpected bill to pay.
Hopefully you have health insurance, which will help augment the cost of any health procedure you need. A good baseline to set is $2,000 for a health crisis. The average cost of an emergency room visit in 2013 was $1,233. That doesn’t include diagnostic testing, so rounding up to $2,000 should cover any additional costs from a trip to the ER.
Reason for an Emergency Fund 3: A Last-Minute Need to Travel
If your brother decided to get married in Vegas next weekend, or if a loved one passed away unexpectedly, would you have the money to buy a plane ticket at the last minute?
Sudden travel can be a huge stressor on your budget. Last-minute plane tickets can be expensive; you may also need to pay for lodging, food, and on-the-ground travel expenses (like cabs or trains).
Just like moving, travel costs can vary widely. Estimating $800 for a last-minute ticket from New York City to Los Angeles, and $1,000 for on-the-ground expenses, Grownups with $1,800 in their emergency fund will be all set for sudden travel.
The fact of the matter is life happens to all of us. Having an emergency fund is the best tool in your possession to make sure your finances stay ready for it. Building your emergency fund so it can absorb costs like a sudden health, travel, or moving expense will help you adult like the Grownup you are.
Kara Perez is a freelance personal finance writer living in Austin, Texas. She is passionate about helping people become financially literate and telling people’s money stories.
Any third-party resources or websites referenced above are not under our control. We cannot guarantee and are not responsible for the accuracy of the resources, websites, or any products or services available through such resources or websites. While we hope the information in these materials are useful, it’s only intended to provide general education. It’s not legal, tax, or investment advice, and may not apply or be useful to your specific financial situation. If you need advice geared to your personal financial situation, you are encouraged to schedule time with a financial planner.