Money August 2017

5 Reasons Why You Need An Emergency Fund

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5 reasons why you need an emergency fund
Photo via Pixabay, CCO, edited by author.

 

You need an emergency fund. A recent study showed that a majority of Americans,  57 percent in fact, cannot handle an unexpected $500 expense. That’s a pretty sobering statistic.

This means that nearly 3 in 5 Americans lack a savings account with at least $500 in it. If you’ve already saved this much, you’re actually ahead of the masses.

Keep in mind that the median household income is about $53,000 and the 60th percentile for income is around$66,500. This means that people who earn more than $60,000 quite possibly have less than $500 easily accessible for an emergency.

Reason #1 Why You Need an Emergency Fund

An emergency fund can take care of unexpected expenses.

Unexpected expenses happen. No one really likes a busted radiator or a leaky pipe. However, these problems are likely to happen at some point in our lives. If you’ve not had one of these issues arise yet, you’re likely to experience them in the near future.

The problem with unexpected expenses is the fact that they’re…well…unexpected. You can’t figure on your sewer pipe collapsing today. It’s actually happened to me, and since it was outside the walls of my house, insurance didn’t take care of most of the expense. Had I not had some money stashed away, this could have been an even bigger problem.

If you have an emergency fund, you’ll be more likely to be able to handle these problems when they arise. Many financial experts, like Dave Ramsey recommend that you start with an emergency fund of $500 to $1,000.

Reason #2 Why You Need An Emergency Fund

An emergency fund can keep you out of debt.

I hate debt. Unfortunately, I’ve been in debt to some degree or another for a while. Of course, most of this is related to purchasing a house. I don’t want to go into debt for everyday purchases like food.

When the radiator busts, you need to fix it or have your car blow up. You probably need a car to get to work. You also need to eat. The physical necessity of food does not go away just because your refrigerator decides to die.

If you have $500 or $1,000 saved up for emergencies, you don’t have to go into debt to get a serviceable refrigerator or fix a radiator while also eating. Which logically brings us to the third reason why you need an emergency fund.

Reason #3 Why You Need An Emergency Fund

An emergency fund can minimize stress.

Have you been in a situation where you had a financial need and a lack of cash to pay for it? I know I have. This typically leads to debt. If you look up to reason #2 above, you’ll see that I HATE debt. I want it gone.

If I can easily take care of a $500 or $1,000 expense with some funds that I’ve set aside t o deal with the unexpected, I’ll probably have less stress in my life. The reasons for this are related to the stress that financial catastrophes bring.

People who are living paycheck-to-paycheck are more likely to have marital problems. They are more likely to have short tempers with their kids.

If you have an emergency fund built up, the little unexpected expense can roll off you like water off a duck’s back.

Reason #4 Why You Need An Emergency Fund

An emergency fund can help you through a job loss.

The fourth reason why you need an emergency fund is the fact that it can help you through a job loss. Dave Ramsey calls the $1,000 emergency fund a baby emergency fund.

After you’ve built up the $1,000 emergency fund, most financial gurus recommend that you save up between 3 and 6 months of expenses. Why? Job losses happen, and they’re one of the biggest financial catastrophes that most people can experience.

Usually, some unemployment insurance will kick in, but it will be far from enough to meet your expenses in most instances. This is where the 3- or 6-month e-fund can bridge the gap between jobs, which will help with reason 3 above–cutting down on stress!

I would point out that there is an outlier when it comes to amount you need. Suze Orman actually recommends having 8 months of expenses squirreled away in an emergency fund. Regardless of whether you stick with 3 months or 6 months or 8 months, if you have a nice emergency fund set up and you lose your job, you’ll be happy to have the money!

Reason #5 Why You Need An Emergency Fund

An emergency fund can help you build up financial confidence!

I can remember the first time I went golfing. Hitting the links used to be one of my favorite hobbies. Today, I rarely play, but the first time I went to hit the ball, I completely missed it! When I finally hit the ball, I actually hit what is referred to as a worm burner. The ball scooted a few yards along the ground before settling in the rough. Not good.

On that first time out, however, I was able to hit one really good shot. It was enough to get me to come back. I played quite a bit in college and into my mid-20s, and I got pretty good and got to where I could usually beat all of my friends. I even broke into the 70s for a couple of rounds.

So…I say that to say this–a little bit of success can usually lead to enough confidence to lead to bigger successes. Once you’ve saved up $500 for an emergency, you now know how to succeed on a small level.

You can then use that knowledge to build up the next $500 in savings. You can then build up to a month, then two, and so on. If you never get started saving toward an emergency fund, you may never build the discipline and the confidence to achieve financial success, much less financial freedom.

If You’re Ready To Start An Emergency Fund

Looking to start an emergency fund? It’s probably a good idea to start a budget (AKA a spending plan). It’s also a good idea to start looking for additional ways to make some money.

If you’re looking to build up some additional income, you might want to check out these ways to make money online without spending a penny. Even $20 a month could add up to nearly $250 a year. This could go a long way toward building your up your e-fund.

Do you have any other reasons why you might want an emergency fund? Let me know in the comments!

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Money August 2017

How To Prioritize Your Finances

The following contribution comes to us from Dave Chen.

How to Prioritize Your Finances

Your finances are a crucial part of your life. Without them, you would not have a place to live, you would not be able to afford to drive your vehicle, and so on. Your finances need to be properly managed to ensure that you do not wind up in a huge debt hole without a way to climb out. Below, we will provide you with some tips and steps to prioritize your finances.

Of course, you want to make sure that you ALWAYS pay your obligations first because you need a place to live, and sacrificing this to put money into your savings account does not make much sense. Okay, let’s take a look at the tips now.

Prioritize Your Finances to wind up with a suitcase of money
Prioritize your finances, and you could wind up with a suitcase of money. Image via Pixabay.

1. Pay Off High-interest Debt

The first priority is for you to pay down your highest interest debt and also any dangerous debt that you may have. You need to tackle these first  because they will hurt you and stick with you if you do not. Many people do not know what debts to consider as dangerous debt. These debts include those with high interest rates, tax liens, debts in collection, and so on.

Pay-day loans, credit cards, high-interest car loans, and high-interest personal loans need to be paid off immediately. The longer you wait to pay them off, the worse off you will be. You will accumulate interest on this debt at a rapid rate, and the sooner you pay it off, the better – you will save thousands.

Pay off credit card debt to get finances in order
Pay off high-interest debt to get your finances in order. Image via Pixabay.

2. Save For Retirement

You want to retire at some point, right? If so, you need to think about your future and start to save for retirement. The longer you wait, the more money you will need to put away. For example, if you do not start saving for retirement until you are 40, you may have to put away half of your salary to be able to have a nice nest egg when you retire.

Your retirement account will ultimately determine whether or not you will live in poverty when you retire. The less you save, the more government help you will need, and the longer you will have to work.

To help you determine how much money you should save, if you were to save $500 per month for a period of 20 years and earn 10 percent on the money, you would save about $380,000 for retirement.

3. Create an Emergency Fund

What would you do right now if the roof on your home caved in? What about if your vehicle’s engine blew? These are things that you need to think about and consider. Many people do not have any type of emergency fund set up, and this means that they have to forgo some of the things they need because of it.

An emergency fund will cover three to six months of all of your living expenses in case the worst situation ever happens. For many people, this means more than $10,000. You should start putting extra money into this account and leave it there. Even if you save one or two percent of your income yearly, you could easily reach a target of $500 per year or so.

4. Go Over Your Expenses

If you already live paycheck to paycheck, the only way that you will be able to have room to save would be to sit down and think about your expenses and then look at them from an unbiased view. If you have a cable bill at $200 and your car insurance is another $200, you may want to cut back on the cable and talk to your agent about a better rate.

You need to explore areas where you may be paying too much and then try to lower the cost. In addition, you should eliminate any expenses that you do not need. On top of this, there are ways to make extra money that can help handle these extra expenses.

Start to Prioritize Your Finances Today

If you are ready to get your financial future into focus, now is the time to do it. We have helped you above by letting you know what we think you need to prioritize first when it comes to your finances. You should focus on the highest interest loans you have because these loans can throw you into a crazy whirlwind of debt, especially if you only make the minimum monthly payments each month. Quite often, this may be private student loans taken out to pay for college. Even more often, these rates can be much higher than federal options.

From there, you should then focus on your retirement, your savings account, and setting goals for yourself. Now is the time for you get a head start and get on the right financial track by starting to prioritize your finances.

— Dave Chen is young professional working in the engineering field. On the side, he skiing, hiking, and writing about all things personal finance at MillenialPersonalFinance.com.

Money August 2017

Book Review–Your Money Map

A few months ago, I visited a Christian bookstore and I decided to check out the personal finance section. Some of the books appeared to be from health and wealth guys who encourage you to “sow some seed” to benefit their ministries. I’m not into that by any stretch. I then happened upon a book titled Your Money Map: A Proven 7-Step Guide to True Financial Freedom. The author of the book was Howard Dayton, and it was published in 2006. Moody Publishers published this book, and it’s pretty far removed from the health and wealth scene. I then decided to pick up the book to see if it was the same as Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover, which has seven baby steps. It did not.

Rather than just giving seven “baby steps” that are singular in purpose and that readers must follow in order religiously, this book shows more of a lifetime journey that a person might take. Both Ramsey and Dayton argue that financial freedom is a process that could take quite a bit of time.

Your Money Map Is Christian In Outlook

Your Money Map is distinctively Christian in its outlook. Therefore, those who have a more secular viewpoint might have more interest in other personal finance books. This book follows a couple that Dayton counseled regarding personal finance and the advice that he gave them through each step of the way.

The book starts out by arguing that all wealth comes as a stewardship from God. Therefore, it’s important to ensure that we are effective stewards with the money that God entrusts with. Dayton argues that one of the first steps that anyone should take when getting their personal finances in order is to begin charitable giving toward religious purposes. This is one of the areas that nonreligious people might disagree with Dayton, but starting to give is part of Destination 1 on the money map that’s included in the chapters of the book, as well as the schematic money map at the very end of the book.

Step 1

Other goals involved in reaching Destination 1 include the obligatory budget and $1,000 emergency fund. These two steps seem to be pretty standard among the community of personal finance gurus. Both are pretty good ideas. Budgeting ensures that you can avoid spending more than you bring in. If you spend more than your income each month, you’ll wind up with a negative net worth if you’re not already there.

If you spend less on a monthly basis, you’ll build up a solid net worth over time. It’s pretty simple, actually. Also, stashing $1,000 allows you to pay for any unexpected expenses that might come up–like the busted radiator I had to replace a couple of months ago. Definitely not cool, but necessary. Learning to handle money God’s way is a little outside the realm of personal finance gurus who are not religious in nature.

Your Money Map

Steps 2 and 3 on the money map are where Dayton is a bit different than some of the other personal finance books and websites that I’ve read. Most of these other books emphasize paying off debt at the expense of savings. Your Money Map argues that people should build up a larger emergency fund (for one, and then three, months of expenses) while simultaneously paying down credit card debt and all other consumer debts. This blended approach is refreshing to me, because cash flow is important. Having more money available at any given time can help people avoid building up additional debt should an unexpected job loss or other catastrophe occur.

Earning money in pajamas can help you achieve financial freedom.

A possible destination after reaching Step 7on Your Money Map.

Step 4 relates to saving up funds for major outlays like a home or retirement (childrens’ education is optional here). Dayton recommends saving up a substantial down payment for a home so that a downturn in the local housing market does not get a buyer upside-down on his or her mortgage. This is generally sound advice (although I didn’t follow it personally because renting in the markets I’ve lived in has been more expensive than buying–I took advantage of loans with low down payment requirements).

Getting Closer To Financial Independence

Steps 5 and 6 deal with actually buying the house, paying it off early, and investing additional money outside of retirement accounts, working toward the multiple goals at the same time. Step 7 is financial freedom. The goal of financial freedom is retiring and actually having something to leave as a legacy, be it through an inheritance to your children or some nice gifts to organizations that you feel strongly about. Retirement also means that you have more time to give to endeavors that you feel really, really passionately about.

The story of Matt Mitchell, the car salesman that Dayton counsels, appears throughout the book. Dayton himself has basically donated his time as a personal finance coach for decades, so he discusses how he walked his pupil through the steps toward financial freedom. I liked how this book showed that you can focus upon more than one thing at a time because compounding is an important and powerful aspect of investing. This is actually not as common in personal finance advice as you might think. Those who start with just saving a few bucks regularly early in life will actually be better off than those who save up more of their income later in life.

Some Jobs Aren’t Worth It

I also liked the argument for having a single earner for many couples. After paying for child care and additional clothing, food, and transportation expenses, Dayton shows how one working wife earned an effective wage of $0.64 per hour on $18,000 of gross earnings over the course of a year. Many people don’t look at it this way, but it’s the rationale we used when my wife decided to stay at home with the kids. Low real earnings like this are also all too common. Overall, Your Money Map did a good job of showing how disciplined people can achieve financial independence over time.  If you’d like to check out this book and read it for yourself, I’d encourage you to scroll up and click the link near the top of the page

Disclaimer: If you decide to sign up for various programs or buy products from my referral links, I may receive compensation. You can get the same great benefits from just going to the websites themselves, but I definitely appreciate your support. It’s one of the ways I’m able to earn money in pajamas while helping others do the same.