How much of an emergency fund is necessary? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 45 Old 06-15-2008, 06:15 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I've been watching Suze Orman a lot lately and was surprised to hear that she suggests a minimum of 8 months worth of bills for an emergency fund. By bills I'm assuming she means EVERYTHING from gas and groceries to mortgage and utilities. So for the average person that would be over $20,000! Is this what everyone has? We have no where near that. But we do have a cc with a high limit that we reserve for extreme emergencies along with a cash emergency fund.

Also, where do you keep your emergency fund? I'd ideally like to keep mine where it can earn money for me and be easily accessible (like a short term CD) but with the way the economy is these days I'm wondering if it would be safer out of the bank.

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#2 of 45 Old 06-15-2008, 06:19 PM
 
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An emergency fund is for a general emergency and doesn't need to be that much. Dave Ramsey recommends $1,000 for like car repairs,etc. Ours was $3,000 kept in a money market account. It's less now thanks to a car repair. The $20,000 if for emergency living, loss of job, etc. It shouldn't be started until after your EF is funded and after any debt is paid off.
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#3 of 45 Old 06-15-2008, 06:22 PM
 
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That's a tough question with a lot of possible answers. I guess the easy answer is you should have as much as you need to feel comfortable. I've heard some experts recommend at least 3 months worth of expenses, and others say you should have a year. For me personally, I feel that 6 months is the minimum I could have and still feel ok, though I'd feel better with more. We're working on building up our emergency fund, right now we have about 5 months.

As for where to keep it, I think that depends on your comfort zone as well. I keep mine in the bank, because of safety reasons. I would worry that someone could break in and steal it and then we'd have lost it all, not worth it to me now as banks still seem safe. If things go south and banks are teetering on the edge, that would be a different story. For now my personal recommendation is to put it somewhere where it can make you a bit of interest.

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#4 of 45 Old 06-15-2008, 06:24 PM
 
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I agree with Suze. Dave Ramsey's suggestion is a joke, imho. (I don't have much respect for the guy anyway because he gives a LOT of bad advice, one of which is this measly $1000 for emergency fund.)

Dh is a tenured professor, so he has some stability that others might not have. For that reason, we keep only about 6 months emergency fund. That's quite a bit more than $20k and we keep it in Vanguard's Money Market Mutual Fund.
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#5 of 45 Old 06-15-2008, 06:24 PM - Thread Starter
 
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OK. We are in a relatively good position because our car is newer and still under warranty. We rent so no need for a home emergency fund and our credit card balance is low and should be paid off soon. DH's job is in a great market and the chances of him losing his job are very low. So is $3500 a reasonable amount for an emergency fund in our situation?

If the unexpected were to happen and DH were to lose his job he would receive unemployment and could probably go back to bartending until he found something in his current field again.

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#6 of 45 Old 06-15-2008, 06:27 PM
 
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We keep three month's expenses and have a HELOC as a backup.

I'd recommend a high-yield savings account (right now, sadly, "high-yield" is like 2.6%). I have absolutely no hesitation keeping my money in any FDIC-insured bank.

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We rent so no need for a home emergency fund
I'd have at least a couple month's rent as an emergency fund.
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#7 of 45 Old 06-15-2008, 06:51 PM
 
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Originally Posted by velochic View Post
I agree with Suze. Dave Ramsey's suggestion is a joke, imho. (I don't have much respect for the guy anyway because he gives a LOT of bad advice, one of which is this measly $1000 for emergency fund.)
You know, I go back and forth about this...I get that he thinks paying down the debt is more important than building a huge emergency fund right away (to be fair he does think you need to build 3-6 months emergency fund once your debt is gone, it's not like he thinks you don't need one at all, just in case someone not familiar with Ramsey is reading and wondering) but the more I read and learn the more I agree with you that debt or not, the economy is too uncertain to be caught without a decent fund to fall back on.

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I'd have at least a couple month's rent as an emergency fund.

: definately.

OP did you mean no need to save for things like repairs? I was a touch confused what you meant by that.

Unemployment doesn't pay much, and there is a time limit on how long you can collect it. If you have the ability to save at all, I think it is worth building an emergency fund, just in case. No job is totally recession-proof, and as my mom always likes to say...better safe than sorry.

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#8 of 45 Old 06-15-2008, 10:01 PM
 
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We have 6 months of expenses in a money market account.

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#9 of 45 Old 06-15-2008, 10:16 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Originally Posted by CameronsMama View Post

OP did you mean no need to save for things like repairs? I was a touch confused what you meant by that.
Yes, since our vehicle is new and under warranty for another 2 yrs (or 20,000 miles, whichever comes first) we don't need to worry about anything major going and paying out of pocket. And we rent so we don't have to worry about replacing a water heater or anything like that. DH has a company car with gas and repairs paid by his company, they also allow him a certain number of personal miles each week

I am planning on building an emergency fund that will cover everything for 3 mos. Our DS2 was born with a heart defect and we never know when insurance is going to stick us with a bill or if he's gonna need another surgery/hospital stay - and those add up quick!

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#10 of 45 Old 06-15-2008, 10:16 PM
 
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I'm not comfortable with less than 3 months living expenses in savings and prefer to have one year's expenses in savings. That said, it varies according to where you are in your life and your situation. When we were fresh out of college with no assets, we had no savings. Few people can have large savings just starting out.

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#11 of 45 Old 06-15-2008, 10:18 PM
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I have about 4 months in a savings account for an emergency fund. I am paying off debt but almost all of my debt is student loans which can be deferred if necessary. I am a contractor and my job is renewed yearly in July so as long as I get renewed, things will be fine. Since my job is a contract rather than as a FT employee, I don't feel comfortable only having $1000. If I did get laid off I could probably get a job at a bar and make enough to support us.

It depends on the situation. If DH was in a very secure job then I would probably feel comfortable having a smaller emergency fund. My job is pretty secure as long as it isn't July and DH doesn't make anything (grad student) so this isn't the case currently.
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#12 of 45 Old 06-15-2008, 10:39 PM
 
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I keep my savings online in ING orange account. The interest varies, but it is like 4-5%. If anyone wants to sign up PM me, I think I get something if I refer people.

I have auto savings so it takes $ out of my checking account automatically so I don't even realize it's gone. I just set up an account for DS.

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#13 of 45 Old 06-15-2008, 10:51 PM
 
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Originally Posted by Jilian View Post
Yes, since our vehicle is new and under warranty for another 2 yrs (or 20,000 miles, whichever comes first) we don't need to worry about anything major going and paying out of pocket. And we rent so we don't have to worry about replacing a water heater or anything like that. DH has a company car with gas and repairs paid by his company, they also allow him a certain number of personal miles each week

I am planning on building an emergency fund that will cover everything for 3 mos. Our DS2 was born with a heart defect and we never know when insurance is going to stick us with a bill or if he's gonna need another surgery/hospital stay - and those add up quick!
Thanks for clarifying! That's a sweet deal your dh has with the car! And I agree those of us who own need to include possible house repairs in our emergency fund planning, where renters don't have that worry. I'm sorry to hear your ds2 has medical issues, it is defintely wise of you to include those possible costs in your savings plans.

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#14 of 45 Old 06-16-2008, 11:45 AM
 
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I agree with Suze. Dave Ramsey's suggestion is a joke, imho. (I don't have much respect for the guy anyway because he gives a LOT of bad advice, one of which is this measly $1000 for emergency fund.)

I thought he suggests it more as a psychological thing. Saving may be as natural to you as a fish to water, but for the people he is trying to help, they may have never seriously saved a dime in their lives. They are people who serially overextend themselves. Though it may sound like nothing, and it probably is, a $1000 in the bank can be a great boost, like they are actually making some progress towards changing their behavior towards money.

He also does not seem to believe the $1k is the end all be all. He does suggest as one of his steps a larger emergency fund when you can afford it.

I don't agree with a lot of what he says either, but I do have some understanding for why he suggests what he does at first.
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#15 of 45 Old 06-16-2008, 12:02 PM
 
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I believe everyone absolutely needs an emergency fund with at least a couple months expenses in it. So many people are one month away from being homeless. Let's say you and your dh both lose your jobs. For some reason unemployment doesn't kick in/you're not qualified, whatever. What will you do? How will you pay your bills?

Even if you have a credit card, how will you pay that bill when it comes in (or at least the minimum amount) so you can continue charging? It is absolutely necessary to have an emergency fund that will cover enough time for you to get back on your feet in the case of a layoff, job loss or disaster. I would think in this economy the more months you have saved up the better you'll be.

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#16 of 45 Old 06-16-2008, 12:04 PM
 
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Originally Posted by Sonnenwende View Post
I thought he suggests it more as a psychological thing. Saving may be as natural to you as a fish to water, but for the people he is trying to help, they may have never seriously saved a dime in their lives. They are people who serially overextend themselves. Though it may sound like nothing, and it probably is, a $1000 in the bank can be a great boost, like they are actually making some progress towards changing their behavior towards money.

He also does not seem to believe the $1k is the end all be all. He does suggest as one of his steps a larger emergency fund when you can afford it.

I don't agree with a lot of what he says either, but I do have some understanding for why he suggests what he does at first.
: I am not a Dave Ramsey fan at all, however I do think a 1K emergency fund is a great starting point. I seem to recall reading sometime ago that for many folks living on the edge having an emergency fund of a 1K can make the difference as far as falling behing in bills when say the car needs a sudden repair ir some other critical repair comes up and your options are charging on a credit card or taking your bill money to pay for the emergency.

That said clearly 1K won't take you far if you have sudden loss of income, but I would suspect that once you have a small emergency fund and debts paid off or at least substantially reduced, then one could work on building up an additional fund with several months of expenses.

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#17 of 45 Old 06-16-2008, 01:21 PM
 
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It doesn't make sense to me to build an emergency fund if you have consumer debt.
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#18 of 45 Old 06-16-2008, 01:22 PM
 
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I would think that the least amount you should have would be 3 months living expenses. This would protect you if you lost a job or had some other high cost emergency.

We're slowly trying to build up an emergency fund. I'd say we have about 3-4K right now as a comfortable emergency fund. I'd ideally like to have the 20K just in case. We're looking to invest the money we do have now in the highest return/lowest risk fund that we can find.
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#19 of 45 Old 06-16-2008, 01:52 PM
 
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Our emergency fund is still in progress but our eventual goal is at least 6 months. It is a lot of money but if dh ended up out of work at a time where finding another in his field were difficult, I think its realistic. Yes I could get a job in that scenario too but I would likely make half what he makes

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We have been Dave Ramsey junkies for years- but this year we have went outside his box and started our 6 month EF. It will hopefully someday lol have 6 months of expenses to live on. With the economy so shaky it just seems like the smart thing to do for us.
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#21 of 45 Old 06-16-2008, 04:16 PM
 
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Currently we have $2K in our emergency fund. We have a lot of consumer debt, and it just doesn't make sense for us to be building the EF when we have so many monthly payments just for debt. Hopefully next year we plan to contribute more to our emergency fund.

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#22 of 45 Old 06-16-2008, 04:41 PM
 
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What exactly is an "emergency fund"?

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#23 of 45 Old 06-16-2008, 04:43 PM - Thread Starter
 
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What exactly is an "emergency fund"?
Money to be used for the unexpected. For example, a job loss, car repairs, furnace breaking, etc.

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#24 of 45 Old 06-16-2008, 04:48 PM
 
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Dave Ramsey's suggestion is a joke, imho. (I don't have much respect for the guy anyway because he gives a LOT of bad advice, one of which is this measly $1000 for emergency fund.)
I agree. $1000 wouldn't even cover one house payment for me, much less food or utilities. I guess it is a start if you are living paycheck-to-paycheck and have nothing in the bank, but I know if I only had a $1000 cushion, I would still feel like I was living hand-to-mouth.

I used to have about 5 months saved as an emergency fund, but in the past year I have been focused on increasing that to eventually have a year saved up. Actually, my ideal goal would be to have 2 years saved, because that would be an excellent maternity leave, should I get pregnant again and decide to quit my job.

I do not like my job so much, that I call the account my "parachute fund" instead of my emergency fund.

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#25 of 45 Old 06-16-2008, 07:24 PM
 
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Right now I'm focusing on consumer debt so I currently have my $1000 in savings. This would go towards smaller emergencies like an insurance deductable or dental emergency or something like that. After that I will focus on getting at least 6 months of expenses set aside in my ING account.

Having said that, if dh's job was in question I would focus on getting my 6 month EF in place. We're not really concerned about his job right now so we're not focusing on getting that in place.

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#26 of 45 Old 06-17-2008, 04:15 AM
 
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Money to be used for the unexpected. For example, a job loss, car repairs, furnace breaking, etc.
I guess we don't really have an "emergency fund". We just put all of our money into savings. If we need something, we pull money out.

We have no debt (besides our mortgage, which is A LOT), so our bills are about 4000/month. So, I suppose we have about 7 months of bills in savings. DH's job is very secure and our cars are brand new, but we do have the occasional unexpected medical and/or Ortho bill.

Do people have separate EFs, or can it just sit in savings?

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#27 of 45 Old 06-17-2008, 09:37 AM
 
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I guess we don't really have an "emergency fund". We just put all of our money into savings. If we need something, we pull money out.

We have no debt (besides our mortgage, which is A LOT), so our bills are about 4000/month. So, I suppose we have about 7 months of bills in savings. DH's job is very secure and our cars are brand new, but we do have the occasional unexpected medical and/or Ortho bill.

Do people have separate EFs, or can it just sit in savings?
This is basically what we do (we put everything we can into savings). It's not designated to specifically be for an emergency, but it's there when we need it. We had nearly a year's worth, but recently bought a car (and had a lot of emergencies pop up), but we should be able to make up for that by fall if all goes well. I'd rather it sit in a nice high interest savings account where it is working for us.
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#28 of 45 Old 06-17-2008, 11:32 AM
 
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Your money in a bank is protected by the FDIC. I think it's up to 100K that they protect. This info is usually posted on the bank door.

We keep our money in a Vanguard MMF because we get about 5% interest and no bank can match that.

The downside is that MMF money is NOT protected by the FDIC. However, in history of MMFs investors were reimbursed the one time there was a problem. If they did not reimburse those folks, then no one would want to use a MMF.

I aim to have 6 months. I'm saving a certain amount each month and sticking it into our EF.

When I last got laid off, it took four months to find a job. I wasn't looking that hard and I'm in a field with lots of jobs.

So, the answer depends.

1. How secure is your job? If you work for the fed govt, you are probably more secure than someone in the private sector.

2. How much do you spend per month? People in low cost areas can save less, I imagine.

3. How much severance would you get? Some places don't tell you in advance. But some people work out severance right when they accept the job. I got 6 weeks, I think, at my last place.

4. Do both partners work? Although we can't live on my DH's income, it did help short term. If I was a single parent, I would have had a harder time.

Also, I don't count car repairs and replacing appliances as emergencies. I budget for them in advance. If we don't use it, then (hey!) it's free money in a way.
HTH!

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#29 of 45 Old 06-17-2008, 11:37 AM
 
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If the unexpected were to happen and DH were to lose his job he would receive unemployment and could probably go back to bartending until he found something in his current field again.
Do you know how much you get for unemployment? In my state, it was about $200 a week. If you can live on 800 a month, then you don't need to worry. My expenses are far greater than that.

I actually decided to get off of unemployment and returned all of the checks because I found the condescending attitude and the time it took to "prove" I was looking for a job to be too time-consuming. They called me often for interviews to make sure I was job hunting. It was really a pain. All that for $200? Maybe it's worth it for some.

Also, I have a dependent. Want to know how much extra I got per week?

$1.42

Yep. $1.42.

PS: If you work, that amount gets deducted from the unemlpoyment.
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#30 of 45 Old 06-17-2008, 02:35 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I think DH would get around $1000/mo in unemployment plus his company offers generous severance pay. That would certainly not cover everything but it would help a lot. I think that $5000 would make me feel comfortable (plus getting rid of ALL cc debt). I plan on keeping it in a short term CD.

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