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How much should I have in my emergency fund?



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It’s the most common story financial professionals hear. Unfortunately, too many people fail to set aside emergency savings to see them through life’s hiccups.

So, when the inevitable happens, and an unexpected bill arrives, they are put under pressure to find the funds to pay it.

In turn, this leads to maxed out credit cards or taking out expensive short-term loans. And so, begins the bitter downward cycle of falling behind on essential bills and other regular payments.

The Household Financial Comfort Report, published by ME Bank, found 22 per cent of Australian households had less than $1,000 in cash savings.

Additionally, 24% of households reported that if they lost their income, they’d only be able to maintain their current lifestyle for one month, and 11% for just two weeks, which is the equivalent of living life on the financial edge.

Why have an emergency fund?

Financial professionals recommend having emergency savings set aside for life’s unexpected bills, but how do you go about doing this, and just how much money should you set aside for rainy day expenses?

The best place to start is to work out just how much money you have now and what income you can expect to earn over the next twelve months. Against this, determine what your expenses are likely to be and hopefully, they are less than what you earn. If not, you need to cut back.

Then decide how much you need in an emergency fund. Just how much you set aside will depend on your circumstances. Most experts suggest you should have the equivalent of between three to six months of living expenses set aside for your emergency fund.

How to get started

The best way to achieve this is to break it down into achievable goals. For example, try to set aside one month’s worth of living expenses or, say, $2,000. That means saving $330 a month or going without two takeaway coffees each day for the next six months.

Once you’ve achieved that, try to save a second amount of $2,000 until you reach your goal.

The next step is to decide where you should keep these funds. Ideally, you want them to be separate from your day-to-day finances but still within easy reach, should you need them.

If you have a home loan, establish a mortgage-linked offset account. In doing so, these funds will not attract interest, which would be taxed at your marginal tax rate, but instead will work to reduce the cost of your overall mortgage.

Another option is to establish a ‘micro’ savings account. The rules on these vary, but most are based on rounding up every purchase made on a debit card and setting these ‘cents’ aside in a free savings account.

Whichever strategy you adopt, remember having a small amount set aside as rainy-day money, no matter how small that amount might seem, is better than having no funds set aside at all.  

 The content of this article is general in nature and is presented for informative purposes. It is not intended to constitute tax or financial advice, whether general or personal nor is it intended to imply any recommendation or opinion about a financial product. It does not take into consideration your personal situation and may not be relevant to circumstances. Before taking any action, consider your own particular circumstances and seek professional advice. This content is protected by copyright laws and various other intellectual property laws. It is not to be modified, reproduced or republished without prior written consent.

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