Everyone knows that you need to have an emergency fund. The common consensus is that you should have somewhere between three to six months of expenses saved for emergencies. Generally, the example people use to implore you to start your fund is the possibility of losing your job. But what about the other expenses? What about the catastrophic life changes that you couldn’t have ever imagined?
A few years ago, my mom was hurt at work. Nothing major, just a twisted ankle — or so we thought. Her simple injury turned into a month-long hospital stay and many months of back and forth visits to various medical professionals and therapists. This injury also led to the permanent loss of her ability to earn an income. She had to move in with me because she was no longer able to live alone. Even with both of our savings, it still was a drastic blow to my budget.
As an only child, I always knew, somewhere in the back of my mind, that I would end up caring for my mother. I always imagined it would be many years later, not in my early 30s, when I was just getting my life established.
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How did this affect me financially? I had money saved but not nearly enough. Even with a savings account and an emergency fund, my money quickly dwindled. This is because I had planned only for my own emergencies — not someone else’s — and instead of caring for one person, I was suddenly responsible for two. Combining and moving two households, increased travel and medical expenses, and other unplanned expenditures quickly ate through my savings.
Although my financial situation has stabilized since then, it doesn’t make it any less important to continue saving. In fact, it has reinforced the need to have an emergency fund, especially one that is readily available.
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My advice now is to plan for what you think you’ll need for any emergency that comes along. Save three to six months of expenses for your emergency fund, yes, but don’t stop there; keep saving. Although you might already be planning for what you consider your worst-case scenario, there are events that can change your entire life more than you know. And these happen in the blink of an eye.
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