Gearing up for an emergency

By Randell Tiongson on August 24th, 2011

Here’s one of the most fundamental objectives one should prioritize – setting up an emergency fund.

It is foolish to think that we will never undergo an emergency in life and most of the time emergencies cost a lot of money. In my seminar Steps to Financial Peace, I talked about setting up an emergency fund as the 3rd step to achieving financial security.

Before starting on emergency fund, it is best if you know how much you actually spend in a month. Many people I know are clueless as to how much they spend monthly. During a financial planning session, I asked someone how much he spends monthly. He told me that he wasn’t sure as to the exact figure so he said he will just give me a ballpark figure. The figure he gave me was P40,000 to P80,000. If the discrepancy was about P5,000 to P10,000, it would have been understandable but P40,000? I politely asked the person to really think about all his expenses, examine his bills, record his spending and get back to me.

If you already have a monthly figure, you are now ready to start building your emergency fund. The rule of thumb for emergency allocation is somewhere between 3 to 6 months of your monthly expenses. 3 months is good, 4 months is better, 5 months will be great and 6 months is excellent. Emergency funds come in handy for a variety of reasons: medical emergencies, loss of employment and so forth. You should also be sensible in determining what an emergency is and what it is not. A 42” flat LED TV that is on Sale is definitely not an emergency.

Why should you set up an emergency fund? Here are 3 good reasons why you should:

1) Emergencies do happen:  It is foolish to think that emergencies will not happen to you. As time goes on, you realize that things do come up that you have not planned for; and you’re going to have to provide for them.  Things do happen, and they won’t happen at a convenient time.

2) Relieves stress:  Having an emergency fund has an added bonus — Peace of mind! You will feel relieved because you no longer have to worry about most small emergencies.  Once you get your larger emergency fund saved, you won’t have to worry about paying for most large ones either.

3) Risk reduction:  When you have established a emergency fund (along with other important things like life insurance, non-life insurance and health insurance), you have a lot less risk of unfortunate things happening.  You will also be less like to go into debt.  In other words you’re making sound decisions to plan for problems, before they actually happen.

I know that starting an emergency fund is not easy for others but this is definitely something we should prioritize. Dave Ramsey suggests we do it by ‘baby steps’. Set aside little money regularly into an emergency fund. Do it in stages like 1 week worth of expenses first, and then move to 2 weeks, to 3 weeks and so forth. Keep a piggy bank or an envelope for you to put your cash into it. My wife and I have this big transparent piggy bank where we put bills into. Once the amount reaches P3,000 to P5,000, we transfer it to our savings account that is dedicated for emergency funds. We also take baby steps too.

Here are some tips:

1) Keep your emergency fund in cash or near cash placements like savings, current, time deposits or Special Deposit Accounts (SDA). Do not invest your emergency funds yet as those are intended to be a buffer or a margin for your finances. Make sure that the deposits can be withdrawn quickly and without huge penalties.

2) Keep some of those funds in an ATM account, say 2 weeks’ worth. Emergencies do not necessarily occur during banking hours.

3) Once you have achieved an ideal 6 months emergency buffer, start investing in better yielding instruments like marked to market funds (UITF, Mutual Funds) because said instruments should perform better in the long run. If you keep all your money in low yielding deposits, its value will ultimately erode because of inflation.

Gear up for an emergency because it is the wise thing to do.

“A prudent person foresees danger and takes precautions. The simpleton goes blindly on and suffers the consequences.” – Proverbs 27:12, NLT.

Here is an interesting thought: Would Jesus have an emergency fund? Read this LINK.


9 thoughts on “Gearing up for an emergency”

  • Thanks, Randell! I learned this the hard way a few years back. The “extras” are never really extras. My mom has always reminded me to “save for a rainy day”, and rainy days do come. This week, it was in the form of a dengue scare. And mind you, the blood and Dengue N1 tests at St. Luke’s don’t come cheap. The extra money gets depleted, especially if you didn’t save up.

    But yea, baby steps! Thanks for the tips!

  • Very well described. In this 21st century, the emergency funds can help a person a lot. I am also following this by saving money and other stuffs for the future or for any kind of emergency, because 2012 is near too 🙂
    Bit he way nice share

  • Thanks Randell for this article. I love the tips to making baby steps. What is your opinion on this. When you have saved enough emergency fund for yourself & family, and a needy relative comes to borrow money for emergency need, will you lend him your emergency fund?

  • This is a very helpful insights. Articles such as this one must be spread. Saving money is a must. It may be not be easy, but should be learned together with discipline.

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Gearing up for an emergency