General

This Is One of the Best Pieces of Financial Advice I've Ever Received – The Motley Fool

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It’s come in very handy through the years.


Key points

  • Financial emergencies can come up unexpectedly.
  • Saving money for an emergency is a good idea, no matter your age or income.

As kids, we’re wired to shun much of our parents’ advice rather than follow it. It’s typical for kids to say things like, “No, I don’t need a jacket” and “No, I won’t be too tired for school tomorrow if I stay up late watching sports.”

As a child, I was no different. In fact, my parents like to joke that one of my goals as an early teen was to do the opposite of just about anything they asked me to do.

I may not have always taken my parents’ advice (like not staying up until 11 p.m. to watch playoff games the night before a big exam). But one tip I did follow has served me well for many years. And it’s come in especially handy during adulthood.

Save for the unexpected

My parents were never wealthy — far from it — but they always did their best with the resources they had. What’s more, they made sure to always have a safety net in the form of savings. The logic was that you never knew when an unplanned bill might arise. So from the moment I started earning money babysitting, they encouraged me to open a savings account and sock money away in there.

Over time, I’ve managed to build up my emergency fund and grow it into a more robust sum than what my teenage babysitting gigs allowed for. In my 20s, I managed to accumulate enough cash in the bank to cover six months’ worth of living expenses. And now, I have enough cash to cover roughly a year of expenses.

For many people, that’s an excessive amount of money to keep in cash. But a big reason I have a larger emergency fund is that I’m self-employed. If I were to lose my job, I’d get no severance, no unemployment — and possibly no warning. And so for me, a year’s worth of living expenses in the bank isn’t so out there. The point, however, is that my parents made it clear that financial emergencies could happen at any time, and that it’s important to be prepared for them.

Years back, I totalled my car in a minor accident that would’ve left many vehicles relatively unscathed, but it caused my automobile to virtually implode. I was able to tap my emergency fund to come up with the down payment for a new car — which I needed quickly.

And in the middle of last summer, my air conditioning system died. My husband and I didn’t have time to shop around for a good deal on a replacement system. Instead, we got a couple of quotes and went with the cheapest one, which was roughly $7,000. If it weren’t for that emergency fund of ours, we would’ve had a pretty large credit card balance to carry.

Listen to your parents

Even as an adult, I don’t always listen to the advice my parents give out. But I’m really glad I took their advice on emergency savings to heart. My cash reserves have bailed me out on numerous occasions throughout my life. Just as importantly, they’ve spared me a world of added stress during already trying times.

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