Life comes at you fast and sometimes you can get a pretty hard curveball thrown your way. It might be a medical emergency, a natural disaster, or the loss of a job. Not all financial emergencies are bad however, sometimes your life plans come to fruition early, whether it’s a new member of the family in nine months or an unexpected career change. Whatever life throws at you, it’s good to have your finances in order to meet those challenges head on. But not everyone is ready to handle a financial emergency due to lack of foresight and poor planning.
You don’t have to be one of those people, you can start to take the important steps now so that you are ready to tackle the good and the bad that might come your way when you least expect it.
Establish an Emergency Fund
This monetary cushion is a vital ally in the event you experience any major financial upheaval at a moment’s notice. In order to be fully covered, you should have enough in this account to cover anywhere from three to six months of monthly expenses. Put the money in a separate savings account so you’re not tempted to dip into it for unnecessary expenditures and have it ready at all times. But don’t worry about depositing all of that money at once, an emergency fund can be built up over time. Just as long as you are committed to the task and make consistent deposits to build up the fund so that it’s ready for you in case something happens. You don’t have to limit yourself to just three to six months either, you can put as much as you think you might need should something dramatic occur and you need extra cash immediately.
When major expenses hit without warning, you may need to rethink your monthly expenses. Finding ways to cut costs is often the first thing that needs to occur, so you’re not burning through your emergency fund as quickly. Coming up with a plan might require some deep cuts, if only temporarily, while you weather whatever emergency has come to your doorstep. Reducing your expenses on everything from your cell phone plan to your cable is a good place to start. Look around at the costs you’re spending on things you don’t use or may not need at the moment, like a gym membership or your Netflix membership. Anywhere you can find some excess in your spending should be ear-marked and eliminated if need be. This may not be a permanent cost-cutting measure, just long enough to get yourself out of the financial hole you’re in at the moment.
Get Properly Insured
Good insurance is going to be another useful ally in the event of a number of different emergencies. The various forms of insurance that apply to your situation are up to you, but doing a full assessment of how you can be thoroughly covered is a good thing to do right now. Homeowners or renters insurance is a smart idea for protecting your home and your belongings. The law still requires you to have some form of health insurance and that will be helpful to prevent you from paying major medical bills out of pocket. Life insurance can help provide for your spouse and children should you pass away unexpectedly due to an emergency. The amounts and limits of all these policies can vary dependent upon your particular situation and you can discuss your options with your insurance agent or broker. The premiums can be tailor-made for your budget, but having no coverage at all could really impact your wallet significantly.
Preparing for financial emergencies extends to having a natural disaster kit ready and available should something happen. Earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, depending on what part of the country in which you reside, these may all be a fact of life. Some more often than others, but you never know when the next will strike or how severely it may impact you and your family. A devastating disaster can wipe out everything, which is why you should put together a readiness kit in the event something does occur. Building a good kit should account for three to five days’ worth of essential supplies, including food, water, medications, First Aid, a flashlight, some form of personal protection such as pepper spray, and don’t forget the pets in your preparations either. Make sure they have enough food and water and medications to survive too. They’re depending on you for their well-being.
Okay, so the Big One hasn’t hit but you’ve taken a major hit on your finances because you’ve been fired or let go from your job. That can feel pretty earth-shattering all on its own and you’ll need to have a dependable safety net ready and available until you find another job. That’s why having a good credit score is so important. A high score can help you get approved for loans and new credit cards so maintaining an excellent history is always a good idea. But in times of crisis, you can fall back on your good credit to help you weather the financial storm until you find new employment. Just be responsible with your new line of credit, using it for the essentials only and eschewing any major expenses or purchases, planned or otherwise. Frugality is the name of the game.
Don’t Touch Your Retirement
It may be tempting to find any and all available financial resources when times get tough. But leave your IRA or 401(k) alone. You could be putting your future in jeopardy just to navigate tough times in the present. Tapping into your retirement might make it tough to meet your financial goals for the future, not to mention the potential taxes and penalties you could be facing for early withdrawal. So you’re losing money on the deal just because you’re in a dire emergency.