Here’s How Much Common Emergencies Cost — Do You Have Enough?

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By definition, emergencies don’t give you time to prepare — and in most cases, you need money to untangle them.

That leaves about half the country simply hoping for the best and dreadfully unprepared for the worst.

A new GOBankingRates survey of more than 1,000 people shows that around 50% have no emergency savings at all. The good news is that the other half does — but in radically varying amounts. Nearly 1 in 10 has achieved five-figure emergency savings, but the biggest percentage has less than $1,000 with the rest falling somewhere in between. 

Nothing is clearly insufficient. But how about the 15% who have just a few hundred bucks or those who are doing better with just a few thousand — and how do you and your savings stack up?

Here’s a look at the most common emergencies and the financial bite they’re most likely to take out of your savings.

Loss of Income

About 40% of the study’s respondents would lean on their emergency funds or non-emergency savings to get through a crisis — but most of those without either would have to take on debt to get through an unforeseen catastrophe.

Credit cards might buy you some time if the emergency involves a single expenditure, but the most devastating emergency of all can be protracted income loss — and putting your entire life on plastic indefinitely is not a feasible long-term strategy.

“The best way to avoid debt is to not need any,” said Bryan M. Kuderna, author of “What Should I Do with My Money?” and a CFP. “And this goes back to having an adequate emergency fund of at least six months’ expenses in the bank.”

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According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average seasonally adjusted length of unemployment as of January 2023 is 20.4 weeks. That’s slightly less than the six months that Kuderna suggests but much more than the three months that many experts cite as the minimum.

The median American worker earns $1,070 a week, according to BLS data, which means the employee in the middle would need $21,828 to endure a typical stretch of unemployment.

Home Repairs

No one can plan for all the many things that can go wrong with a house. But according to Family Handyman, homeowners should have enough emergency savings to cover the most common home repairs, which are listed below along with their nationwide average cost according to Home Advisor.

  • Broken window: $392
  • Broken furnace: $311
  • Water heater damage: $592
  • Damaged or leaky roof: $1,050
  • Burst pipe: $500
  • Broken appliances: $175

Keep in mind that home repairs have a way of ganging up on you. For example, since appliances are often bought together, they tend to fail around the same time, as well.

Car Repairs

According to Forbes, today’s well-engineered, precision-manufactured cars are running longer than ever before — but they cost more to repair now than in generations past, too.

According to CarMD, the average check engine repair now costs between $349.25 in the cheapest state, Maine, to $418.37 in Connecticut, the most expensive.

Here’s a look at some of the other common repairs that vehicle owners should make room for in their emergency savings, according to RepairPal.

  • Alternator replacement: $610-$796
  • Windshield replacement: $200-$401
  • Brake pad replacement: $262-$287
  • Catalytic converter replacement: $1,996-$2,073
  • Spark plug replacement: $205-$263
  • Ignition coil replacement: $215-$288
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Medical Emergencies

The ACA Marketplace groups health insurance policies into four tiers — bronze, silver, gold and platinum — that strike a balance between monthly premiums and the cost at the time of care. Bronze plans have comparatively low premiums but higher deductibles and copays. Platinum plans are expensive, but the insurance company pays much more when you use them.

Most privately obtained policies follow a similar structure.

For 2023, the ACA caps out-of-pocket expenses on all Marketplace policies at a maximum of $9,100 for an individual or $18,200 for a family.

That would take a major bite out of all but the most robust emergency funds — and those without insurance will be on the hook for a whole lot more. Simple doctor visits can cost hundreds, common injuries like broken bones can cost thousands and major procedures like heart surgeries can quickly run into six figures.

Funerals

The financial burden of final arrangements often compounds the emotional toll of losing a loved one. According to the National Funeral Directors Association, embalming and other body preparation services alone cost around $1,000. The services of a hearse cost $350, a viewing costs $450 for the facility alone and a metal burial casket costs $2,500. In total, the median funeral costs $7,848.

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Methodology: GOBankingRates surveyed 1,005 Americans aged 18 and older from across the country on between January 16 and 18, 2023, asking twenty different questions: (1) Do you currently have any form of an emergency fund?; (2) How much do you currently have put away for an emergency fund?; (3) If you faced an emergency (medical, housing, etc.) how would you have to pay for it?; (4) How much do you currently have saved for retirement?; (5) Do you have any of the following debt? (Select all that apply); (6) How much debt (student loans, medical, auto/personal loan, credit card, etc.) do you currently have? (NOT including mortgage); (7) If you have a significant other, how much do you argue about money concerns?; (8) Which money topics do you discuss with your children? (Select all that apply); (9) How often do you discuss personal finance issues with your family and/or friends?; (10)What are the chances, in an average month, of you and your family running out of money before you are paid next?; (11) What worries you most when it comes to your personal finances?; (12) Compared to pre-COVID (before March 2020) are you more or less confident in your personal finances?; (13) If you received an unexpected bonus of $5,000, what’s the first thing you would do with it?; (14) If you won the lottery ($100 million), which of the following would you do with the winnings? (Select all that apply); (15) Would you rather…ask a family or friend to borrow money or max out a credit card?; (16) What would you like to learn more about in order to improve your personal finances?; (17) Do you consider yourself a spender or a saver?; (18) Which categories do you believe you overspend on? (Select all that apply); (19) How much do you spend on self care monthly?; and (20) What is your top financial priority?. GOBankingRates used PureSpectrum’s survey platform to conduct the poll.

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