One of the most highly-advised financial credos, regardless of whether it’s professional or personal, is to be prepared in the event of an unexpected tragedy or occurrence. The first proverb about putting something aside against a hypothetical time of adversity has been around since the 1600s. It has evolved into the expression save for a rainy day.
Not all needs are created equal, however. There is a huge difference between needing new tires and having a tree fall on your house. For the bigger challenges that life throws at you, it’s recommended to have another nest egg saved in case of a larger eventuality. This is more commonly known as an emergency fund. Contrary to popular belief, these are not the same.
Generally, an emergency fund is meant to help someone survive for a lengthy period of time in case of a disability or natural disaster, for example. It’s usually in the range of $10,000-50,000 and should keep someone sustained for months, depending on several factors. A rainy day fund, by contrast, is generally a much smaller amount, closer to $2,500. Advisors will tell you to first fill your rainy day amount, then move onto the larger emergency fund, but they can also be filled simultaneously, depending on your financial situation.
At first, it might seem that setting aside money from a paycheck and depositing it into two additional accounts would be daunting and stressful, but the opposite is actually true. Having to show restraint with each paycheck by portioning out some money in the shadow of an unknown future is actually calming. There is a certain peace of mind that goes along with financial planning. In addition, learning how to budget is one of the most practical skills you can learn, regardless of your age. It is never too late to start setting money aside to build a safety net.
If the idea of losing instant access to your cash flow makes you nervous, there are other options to consider. If you are someone who lives paycheck to paycheck, then consider asking for a lesser IRS tax deduction each pay period so you can have more immediate cash in hand. Likewise, if you are one of the people who receive an income tax refund, try allocating it for your rainy day and emergency funds, in lieu of spending it. If you get a salary increase, deposit the difference into the extra funds each pay period. Some employers will even help you by automatically deducting and transferring amounts so you don’t have to think about it. If you are finally finished paying off a loan, take that amount or a portion of it to put towards your rainy day fund.