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Fully Fund Your Emergency Fund Now

The New York Times recently released a great series about consumer debt called The Debt Trap [3]. One common thread in several of the videos is the devastating effect “emergencies” can have on your personal finances. A medical emergency, a job loss or cutback in hours, all of these emergencies were weathered, in the short term, with credit cards. In the long term, the credit cards charged high interest rates, piled on fees, and made it extremely difficult to recover. It’s like telling someone to pause for five minutes in the middle of a foot race so that you can strap on a 100 pound rucksack. You might catch up, but probably not.

This underscores the incredible importance of having an emergency fund. The economic climate is pretty rough right now. IndyMac went into conservatorship, Wachovia announced they were slashing 11,000 jobs, and the price of oil gyrates in the triple digits. The stock market is down and there’s a lot of red in those brokerage accounts. The last thing on most people’s minds is boosting that emergency fund. But now is the most important time to focus on your emergency fund.

In times of prosperity, it’s easier to weather emergencies without a plan. Bonuses are bigger, regular and OT hours are more plentiful, and there is less fear that you’ll lose your job. Boosting an emergency fund isn’t fun, but neither is crushing debt, bankruptcy, eviction, and the unfortunate feelings that come with it.

Feel your job is 100% safe? That’s great, but that’s actually not the most devastating emergency. About about half of all bankruptcies are the result of medical bills [4]. You can’t predict the future, but you can prepare for it.

How To Start a Fund?

It’s very simple, get your check book, get your budget, and open an account at FNBO Direct [5] (FNBO Direct review [6], or pick any one of these high yield savings accounts [7]), they are currently paying 3.50% APY. If online banks make you uncomfortable, open one at your local bank. A fund at 0% APY is better than no fund at all.

You’ll want to save at least six months of expenses, which you can tell from your budget (you budget right???). Try to accumulate that over [insert comfortable time period here]. The faster you do it, by sacrificing some discretionary spending now, the better.

Another option is to ladder your emergency fund [8] in certificates of deposit. One place that makes it very easy is ING Direct [9] but their current rates are all in the 3.30% APY to 3.00% APY range, less than HSBC Direct’s standard high yield savings account rate, so I would put it in HSBC Direct for now.

What are you waiting for?

(Photo: c.violette.run [10])