The economy today has most Americans nervous when it comes to their financial futures and job security, never before since the Great Depression has there been a time of greater need for Americans to have a back up plan for their finances.
More and more people have been living in a plastic world with a buy now and pay later mentality that is, until now. Unemployment has reached record levels and more job losses are expected as the housing crisis and credit freeze continues to linger on.
The simple truth is that we all must practice better debt management habits and should begin with our lack of savings for emergencies. The average family holds over 15 credit card accounts and owes as much as $18,000.00 dollars in credit card debt alone, and many are living from paycheck to paycheck essentially.
While they may have 401K’s or IRA’s they often have little or no savings in the event one or both spouses lose their jobs or illness or an accident keeps them out of work for any length of time. They often feel secure thinking they can barrow from their own retirement accounts, but too often find that will come with hefty penalties for early withdrawal, and or loss of employer matching funds that make it an untenable solution and just bad money management.
If you do not have an emergency fund right now then you must create one today, even if your funds are very tight right now, this is not a luxury but a necessity, not a want to have but a must have, especially if you have children.
As a rule of thumb you should have minimally 6 months savings (in an interest bearing account) that is equal to all your monthly expenses, although 1 year or more is a more suitable amount especially these days. This may seem unattainable when you stare at the figure on a piece of paper, but I assure you it can be done with proper budgeting and reducing your amount of debt to income ratio.
Even if you are already on a budget you must make more reductions to accomplish your emergency fund goals. This may even have to be painful to some degree and for as long as it takes to accumulate your emergency funds, but remember that this is not forever and you will have much more peace of mind knowing that you are prepared.
If you don’t see how you can stretch your budget any further you might consider getting professional debt counseling to strategize with you to create a new budget plan. It sometimes takes a fresh point of view and a professionals trained eye to point out the debt management mistakes you may be making.
Reputable credit counseling is sometimes free for selected services or assistance, but there may be a fee involved so be sure to ask and read any contracts carefully, as well as checking with the Better Business Bureau before agreeing to anything. Even if there is a fee involved it may be a worthwhile investment in order to get your finances under proper management and create that emergency fund to protect your family in the event the unthinkable happens. So don’t delay, start planning your emergency fund if not by yourself, than with a reputable credit counseling service today.