Liz Pulliam Weston On Planning For Emergencies


I like to emphasize financial flexibility, rather than dictate a set dollar amount. I think you should look at all your available resources, including cash in the bank, available credit and your “Plan B” options. Is there another earner in your household? How secure are his/her job prospects? Do you have friends or family who could help you out if your back was really up against the wall?

You also need to look at your overhead and how easily you could cut back if necessary. If you’ve got huge mortgage and car payments, for example, you have less flexibility than if you would if your “must have” expenses-shelter, food, utilities, insurance, child care, minimum loan payments-total 50% or less of your after tax income.

The people who are most vulnerable right now are the ones who spend every dime they make on their overhead and who really don’t have a Plan B. There’s just no wiggle room. If you’re a dual-income household and both work in the same troubled industry, or for the same firm, heaven forbid, you’re really on the edge unless you have a fat wad of cash in the bank.

Personally, I’m most comfortable when I have access to cash and credit that equals at least a year’s worth of must-have expenses. I think most people should try to shoot for at least three months’ expenses in cash alone, but unless you’ve already lost your job I wouldn’t stop saving for retirement or paying down credit card debt just to boost that emergency fund.

Planning Your Emergency Fund

The graph above shows the value of an individual’s emergency fund expressed in the number of weeks worth of expenses vs. the percentage likelihood of having an emergency  that would wipe it out.  It starts at 100% with no emergency fund and works down to about 3% at 52 weeks worth of expenses in reserve. Read more of this post

More Ideas To Deal With Money Issues In The Family

wealthymatters,comHere are a few more tips for dealing with money issues in the family.You can find more in an older post here:

1)Set a limit on how much each person can spend without checking in with the others.While may be  restrictive, in reality it is a display of respect towards other family members.
2)Before taking on any new debt, such as a larger mortgage or a new car loan, save the amount of the future payment into a savings account for at least six months. If you can consistently save that much for six months, you can realistically afford the purchase. Better to know in advance the sacrifices you will need to make than have buyer’s remorse after the fact.
3)Build and keep an emergency fund for unseen expenses or events such as a job loss. The last thing you need when going through a difficult transition is the stress of worrying about money.

The Importance of Having a Contingency Fund

This letter was written in 1939,ten years into the Great Depression, by Warren Buffett’s grandfather Ernest, to his youngest son (and Warren Buffett’s uncle) Fred, and his wife. Warren found it in a safe in 1970 while executing a will of a family member…along with $1000. I believe I will gift a copy of this letter and cash for a contingency fund to any children I might have.

Dear Fred & Catherine,

Over a period of a good many years I have known a great many people who at some time or another have suffered in various ways simply because they did not have ready cash. I have known people who have had to sacrifice some of their holdings in order to have money that was necessary to have at that time.

For a good many years your grandfather kept a certain amount of money where he could put his hands on it in very short notice.

For a number of years I have made it a point to keep a reserve, should some occasion come where I would need money quickly, without disturbing the money that I have in my business. There have been a couple of occasions when I found it very convenient to go to this fund. Read more of this post

Some Financial Thumb – Rules

Financial thumb-rules are rough guides for making sensible financial decisions .However they have their  infirmities and so need to be used in the right context.Following are a few basic financial thumb-rules:

  1. Pay yourself first rule: From any money you make, put away atleast 10% first before you pay any bills or debts or do anything else with the money i.e. make your investments the first obligation on your money.The general idea is that this money will start working for you by earning interest , gaining in capital value or giving you rents etc. and in time you will need to work less and less as your money starts working for you.
  2. The emergency fund rule: Build a corpus equal to 3-6 months worth of expenses of your household.Life is uncertain and you never know when somebody might meet with an accident , fall sick , suffer losses in business , lose a job or suffer loses due to fires or natural calamities ,war, civil strife etc.The money is to take care of immediate expenses,provide a cushion to fall back on till you find your feet again and if necessary provide a small stake to start over again.The money needs to be kept in a safe place where there is no chance of loss of capital and where it can be withdrawn immediately and without hassles.
  3. 100 minus your age rule:This is a thumb-rule to determine how much of your paper assets should be in equities.The general idea is that as you grow older and wealthier you want less volatility and less risk of capital loss.Volatility might complicate withdrawls from the corpus in retirement and lost capital might not be so easily made up for later in life, after retirement.
  4. The 10,5,3 rule : This rule states that you can on an average expect returns of 10% on equities,5% on bonds and 3% on liquid cash and cash-equivalent accounts in the long run.It’s important to remember this rule before reaching for that extra half percent that might lead to capital loss. Read more of this post
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