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How to Start Building an Emergency Fund

In life, it’s impossible to avoid the unexpected — whether it’s an overheating radiator or an emergency medical bill. Yet, many people fail to invest in a proper emergency fund. More than half of Americans would be unable to pay an unexpected expense of $500. If you haven’t started building an emergency fund, now is the time.

Start Building Your Emergency Fund

Most people know they should have an emergency fund. But some simply don’t make enough money to start one, while others just it put off.

For those in the first group, you can look for ways to make extra money in the short term. Work part-time, drive for a rideshare company, take on freelance work or sell items you don’t need. Your goal is to build a savings fund sooner, rather than later — you never know when your next emergency will be.

If you have the income to build an emergency fund now, but keep avoiding it, it’s time to stop. The best way to begin is to factor in the fund when you create your next monthly budget, and try to make as much progress in building your emergency fund as fast as you can.

Set a Savings Goal for Your Emergency Fund

It’s different for every person. Start with what you can afford, and invest in your savings fund on a regular basis until it’s fully funded. A well-stocked emergency fund should include three to six months of expenses. For example, if you have $2,500 in monthly expenses, then you should have between $7,500 and $15,000 stowed away.

Plan for a Longer-Term Emergency Fund, If Necessary

In some cases, you’ll need to build your emergency fund so that you can provide for your needs for a whole six months. Consider this longer-term emergency fund if you happen to be your home’s sole earner, or if you’re in a position where if you lost your job, there would be no other income for rent or groceries.

If your career comes with a fluctuating income, you’ll also want to have a six-month emergency fund ready. Just imagine if you have several slow months that coincide with a large, unexpected expense. With a nest egg in the bank, you’ll be better prepared to cover the costs.

Parents, too, should establish a larger emergency savings fund. When there are kids involved, any financial crisis can feel 10 times more stressful.

Don’t Invest Your Emergency Funds

It can be tempting to invest your emergency fund in mutual funds or other assets — but resist this urge. The best thing you can do is keep it in a simple savings account with no risk of loss. The goal of an emergency fund is to provide you financial security, and you don’t get that if your fund becomes a financial investment. Plus, keeping a simple savings account makes your fund more liquid, allowing you to withdraw at short notice.

Spend It When Needed, Meaning Ideally Never

Most financial “emergencies” aren’t true emergencies. If your car tires are four years old, you’ll likely need to replace them soon. If it’s October, the holidays are around the corner, and you’ll need to budget for additional spending. These circumstances aren’t the kind of dire, unexpected events that your dedicated fund will carry you through. You should plan for known financial needs without using your emergency fund, and reserve that money for true emergencies.

Your Emergency Fund Is an Emergency!

Don’t delay planning your family’s emergency fund a second longer. Contact your Farm Bureau agent or advisor today, and ask them about smart budgeting tools that can help you build up your nest egg.