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Are You Prepared for a Financial Emergency?


While a general emergency fund should cover six to nine months of monthly expenses, retirees should have an emergency fund that covers two to three years. See why.

Life can be full of unexpected obstacles; having cash at hand will help you by providing you with more options and preventing you from taking on debt at the worst time possible. An emergency fund acts as a safety net, protecting you and your family from unforeseen circumstances where you need cash immediately.

The most common needs for emergency funds are: job loss; unexpected medical expenses; extensive, but necessary, house repairs; death in the family; and auto repairs/replacement. Oftentimes, when it rains, it pours with unexpected issues occurring simultaneously.

You can prepare for financial emergencies that require access to cash by keeping an appropriate emergency fund. The assets should be liquid so you can access the money quickly in the event of an emergency. As such, these assets should be in cash, CDs, money markets and/or short-term, fixed-income instruments. The money should be easy to get via check, teller window or ATM machine and incur limited or no penalty for withdrawal.

While the determination of the amount of an emergency fund is dependent upon a number of factors specific to the family or individual (e.g., job security, whether both spouses are employed, the ability to find a new job in one’s field, etc.), in general your emergency fund should cover six to nine months of your typical monthly expenses that are considered necessities, such as:

• Mortgage and/or rent

• Insurance (house, car and health) premiums

• Transportation costs

• Food

• Tuition

• Utilities

If you are retired and dependent on regular withdrawals from your investment portfolio, then your emergency fund should cover two to three years of living expenses. While that may sound like a lot, the reason is because you want to avoid having to withdraw funds from a falling portfolio.

Lastly, here are just a few of the things to keep in mind with regards to financial emergency preparedness:

• Homeowners can benefit from having a home equity line of credit available for emergencies.

• Avoid turning to your credit card as a source for cash during hardship.

• Keep some cash at home to cover a couple weeks of typical expenses in case ATMs/banks are closed due to natural disasters/financial crisis.

This blog post is limited to the dissemination of general information pertaining to investment advisory and/or financial planning services and general economic market conditions. The information contained herein should not be construed as personalized investment or financial planning advice. Past performance is no guarantee of future results, and there is no guarantee that the views and opinions expressed herein will come to pass. Investing in the stock and fixed income markets involves gains and losses and may not be suitable for all investors. Information presented herein is subject to change without notice and should not be considered as a solicitation to buy or sell any security or engage in a particular investment or financial planning strategy.

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Victor J. Dzau, MD, gives expert advice
Victor J. Dzau, MD, gives expert advice