That’s why, after last year, the importance of building and having an emergency fund has never been more apparent.

No, most individuals can’t afford to set enough money aside in a short period of time to survive months of unemployment. However, having an emergency fund can go a long way to making difficult times easier and emergency situations more manageable.

Before you start building your emergency fund, there are some things to know.

What is an Emergency Fund?

An emergency fund is a bank account with money that is set aside specifically for large, unexpected expenses or financial emergencies.

That can include unforeseen medical expenses, vehicle or home repairs, major necessary purchases (ie; home appliances), or a large reduction or loss of income.

Why do I need an Emergency Fund?

A major financial hit can often put people into debt that takes time to climb out of. Or, lead you to pull money from savings accounts, making retirement goals harder to reach.

Where do I start?

Start small. What is an emergency you could see coming? Maybe you could have to replace a major appliance or buy a full-set of new tires. Figure out that cost and make that your initial goal.

Having a specific dollar goal is important because it’s trackable. Watching the fund grow over time can lead to positive feelings, which will reinforce the value of setting the money aside.

If you need help with a dollar amount, we suggest $500. Reach that point first. Then go toward three to six months’ worth of living expenses.

What’s next?

Set up somewhere to put the money. the account should be separate from the bank account you use daily, so you’re not tempted to dip into your reserves. Don’t connect it to a checking account so you won’t be tempted to easily move money over from it.

Also, choose a savings account that offers rewards or a high interest rate.

After you have an account, set it up to automatically withdraw money from your paycheck straight to the account so you won’t be tempted to skip a deposit.

Now what?

Find a way to regularly check your savings. Whether it’s an automatic notification of your account balance or writing down a running total of your contributions, finding a way to watch your progress can offer gratification and encouragement to keep going.

Also, as you reach certain benchmarks toward your goal -- say 25%, 50% -- reward yourself.

Finally, don’t touch it. This account is for emergencies only. Real ones. So only use it in case of real emergencies.

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