Life is full of surprises, unfortunately not all good. While you can’t predict everything that may happen, unexpected problems are easier to deal with when you’re financially prepared.
The first thing to consider is what you can realistically and affordably insure against.
These will be events that are difficult or impossible to recover from financially if you’re not insured. They could include your home burning down, your car being stolen or written off in a crash or a long hospital stay because of illness or an accident.
You can, and many people do, insure against all or most of these things either because they’re required to when they take out the bond to buy a house or get a loan to buy a car or because they see the sense in insuring an expensive asset.
Many employers offer medical aid or a hospital plan as part of a salary package.
But what about life’s more common upsets, such as when an essential appliance such as a freezer or oven stops working, a car breaks down or a toilet or pipe gets blocked?
Research shows that very few of us have enough saved to deal with this sort of problem, which can be very disruptive, although easier to manage if you have an emergency fund.
Having money set aside makes it easier and less stressful to deal with unforeseen problems and means you aren’t forced into decisions you may later regret. Here’s what the experts say:
1. Start saving money today
Getting started with an emergency savings plan is the hardest part. Ideally you should aim to save about 5% of your income each month for unexpected expenses.
2. Keep your emergency fund separate
Keep your emergency fund in a separate account, so you’re not tempted to dip into it. Money market and tax-free savings accounts are two emergency fund investment options to consider. Ideally set up an automatic transfer.
3. Save enough to cover 3 – 6 months
Keep saving until you have enough to cover your normal household expenses for between three and six months. That way you’ll have a reasonable cushion.
4. Be conservative when spending emergency savings
If you need to use all or some of the money, try to cut back on non-essential expenses such as entertainment or holidays until you’ve replenished it.