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Building an Emergency Fund

By KSU Counseling Services Staff 

Emergencies, by definition, come as surprises, and they often require a fair amount of attention and money to deal with.

Emergencies

These may be car troubles—accidents or malfunctions—without alternate transportation. An appliance might break down. There may be unforeseen health issues, which require insurance deductibles and medical purchases. There may be job losses. There may be surprise tax bills. Any combination of unforeseen events may require immediate attention and money.

Financial Emergency Preparedness

"Emergency preparedness" includes having an emergency fund to deploy in a pinch. Having money set aside to handle "unexpected" events helps protect you from having to try to borrow from others. Having money expands your potential list of choices.

Planning for emergencies may keep you out of financial tight spots—such as bounced checks, high credit-card fees, or exorbitant interest rates to payday lenders. A little extra money works as a buffer against some of life's unexpected challenges.

Building Emergency Funds

Financial planners suggest building an emergency fund gradually, such as by having a $100 nest egg stored in a savings or checking account. It should be accessible but not so easy to get to that you'd be tempted to raid this for a non-emergency. (It would help to define what would clearly constitute an emergency, so you know one when you see it...but also so you won't confuse small surprises with emergencies.)

Other Fund-saving and Fund-raising Ideas

Others suggest that a tax refund might offer a good lump of money to build an emergency fund with. Others propose a "buy nothing" period of half a month or a month to save up. With the ease of online sites like Craigslist or eBay, various personal possessions may be sold. Cutting back on expenditures like the cable bill may help in raising cash. Cutting back on eating out or on "luxury" coffees may be helpful. Many banks now offer automatic withdrawals for savings, to help their customers set aside funds. If there are opportunities to take on extra paid work, that may offer yet another way to build a financial cushion.

The Underprepared

According to the Federal Reserve Board's 2004 Survey of Consumer Finances, some 35% of people under 35 do not have the requisite $500 suggested for an emergency fund. Many are living just paycheck to paycheck.

Preparing for a future emergency is prudent and necessary.

© All staff articles are used by permission of the respective author(s). Copyright belongs to the University Life Café. No part of this may be used without authorization.

Building an Emergency Fund (pdf)