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Emergency Funds 101

You never know what the future will hold, especially in terms of finances. Chances are that at some point, an unexpected event will impact your income, whether it’s a change in employment, medical expense, or an unplanned expense during a move. The good news is that a lot of military families are already saving — the National Capability Study’s Military Survey reports that 54 percent of its respondents (servicemen and women across all branches of the military) already have emergency funds set aside.

For those who don’t (or those looking to improve their emergency fund habits), check out how to get started with an emergency fund and how you can save more.

First, determine your savings goal. The most touted rule of thumb  is to have at least three months of living expenses put away. If you are preparing to transition back to civilian life, having six months of living expenses saved will provide you with a good cushion to see you through the transition process.

Next, start your emergency fund. Although the above amount can seem like a lot at first, small deposits made consistently will add up. There are apps available to help you reach your savings goals. Apps such as Qapital and Acorns round up purchases and save or invest the difference for you (these are just two popular ones; there are a variety you can choose from). When exploring apps, be sure to choose only those that have bank level security. Learn how to save in small ways in the article How to Start Small. Stick to your target and you’ll be able to reach your goal.

Finally, decide what counts as an emergency. Typically, an emergency might be some unexpected expense or something affects your ability to earn money. Regular planned expenses such as car insurance don’t really justify dipping into emergency savings. And, a great deal on the latest smart phone definitely isn’t an emergency. By having an adequate emergency savings set aside you can avoid the use of costly credit when an emergency arises. And, by being prepared and thinking ahead, you’ll probably still be able to afford that great deal without draining your emergency savings account.

To find out how to grow your emergency fund or get other financial tips and tools, contact your installation’s MCCS Personal Financial Management program staff, who you might know better as “PFMs.” PFMs offer individual financial counseling and conduct a variety of workshops on topics like budgeting and consumer/military protections. Don’t forget to check out the Financial Preparedness playlist on the Personal Financial Management MarineNet Video channel (CAC login required).

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