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Emergency Fund What It Is and Why It Matters

An emergency fund, which is best held in a savings account, is useful for unforeseen expenses.

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What is an emergency fund?

An emergency fund is a bank account that has funds set aside to cover big, unforeseen expenditures like:
  • Unforeseen medical expenses.
  • Home-appliance repair or replacement.
  • Major car fixes.

Why do I need an emergency fund?

Without having to rely on credit cards or high-interest loans, emergency funds have a financial cushion that will keep you afloat in a time of need. If you have debt, having an emergency fund is particularly important because it will help you from spending more.

How much should I save?

The short answer is that if you're just getting started, start with $500 and work your way up to half a year's worth of expenses.

The long answer: The sum that is right for you is determined by your financial situation, but a reasonable rule of thumb is to have enough money to cover three to six months of living expenses. (You can need more if you freelance or work seasonally, or if your job is difficult to replace). If you lose your job, you could use the money to cover living expenses as you look for a new one, or you could use it to supplement your unemployment insurance. Start tiny, says Weston, but get started.

Even $500 saved will help you get out of a lot of financial binds. Put something aside now, and your fund will grow over time.

Where do I put my emergency fund?

A high-interest savings account with convenient access. Since an emergency can happen at any moment, it's important to have easy access. As a result, it should not be invested in a long-term portfolio. However, the account should be kept separate from the one you use on a regular basis so you don't have to dig into your reserves.

Your money will be better off in a high-yield savings account. It's safe because it's insured up to $250,000 by the federal government. The money earns interest, and you can get cash easily when you need it, whether through withdrawal or funds transfer.

How do I build an emergency fund?

Calculate how much you want to save in total. If you need help calculating your expenditures over the next six months, use the NerdWallet emergency savings calculator below.

Make a monthly savings target for yourself. This will help you develop the habit of saving on a regular basis and make the job less intimidating. One way to do this is to set up automatic transfers from your checking account to your savings account every time you get paid.

Automatically deposit funds into your savings account. If your employer uses direct deposit, they will be able to split your paycheck between several checking and savings accounts, allowing you to meet your monthly savings target without touching your checking account.

Maintain the transition. When you make an order, use mobile technology to save automatically. There are savings applications that connect to your checking or other spending accounts and round up your transaction amounts. The surplus is immediately deposited into a savings account. If you normally spend cash, put some of your spare change, or $1 and $5 bills after breaking a $20, in a jar at home. Take the jar to the bank when it's complete and deposit the money.

Keep an eye on your tax refund. You just get a chance to do this once a year if you expect a refund. It's a simple way to increase your emergency fund by saving it. Consider getting your refund deposited directly into your emergency account when you file your taxes. Alternatively, you can change your W-4 tax form to get less money deducted from your paycheck. Then put the rest of the money into your emergency fund.

Contributions should be evaluated and adjusted. Check in after a few months to see how much you're saving and make some necessary adjustments, particularly if you've recently depleted your emergency fund. If, on the other hand, you've saved enough money to cover six months' worth of expenses and still have money left over, you might consider saving it.

Draw a distinction between emergencies and everything else when saving. In fact, once you've achieved a sufficient amount of emergency savings, Weston suggests starting a separate savings account for occasional yet unavoidable expenses like car repairs, holidays, and clothes.Many banks allow customers to build and mark sub-accounts for various financial objectives if they need help staying organized.