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How much emergency money should you hold?

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Carl Book
Carl Book
9 days ago

I don’t hold very much cash. If I need cash, I can use a margin loan on my portfolio. My broker has a low rate and I can repay it at my discretion. This allows me to keep my funds invested.

Purple Rain
Purple Rain
12 days ago

5 years – 1 year’s worth in savings a/cs, 4 years’ worth in a ladder of I-Bonds and CDs.

I don’t hold bonds in my investment portfolio. If there is a market correction, I don’t need to sell and I can funnel 2 years’ worth emergency expenses into the market when it is cheap.

Rob Thompson
Rob Thompson
30 days ago

All our kids know to save in stages. First, a 3-month emergency fund. Then as your career progresses, slowly grow that to 6-months. Now, that I am retired it dawned on me as a “bucket approach kinda guy” that I could take that 6-month emergency fund and turn it into another layer of the first retirement bucket by expanding it to 12 months of living expenses giving us 3 years of cash as we start retirement. And if we have “an emergency” it’s still there.

Ginger Williams
Ginger Williams
2 months ago

How much and where you keep it depends on family/work situation. My goal is to have enough readily available cash to meet expenses while making thoughtful decisions about how to pull money from my investment accounts. I keep a month’s current expenses in checking, two month’s essential expenses in savings, and the rest is invested. If I had dependent children, I might want more cash available to minimize disruption to family while dealing with emergency.

Rommel Castro
Rommel Castro
2 months ago

I keep 2-3 months of expenses. I try to keep 2 months always available and the money for the third I used to things like car repair, private insurance or any other emergency, I see more like amount of money I have saved for big bills.

I keep only 2 months because I’m single, no dependants, have a high paying job as a software engineer and I’m really good at it, so is very unlikely to be unemployed more than a few hours/days (really!).

If I endup in a situation where I’ll need to cover more than two months I can always go back to Nicaragua where I have a shelter and can live with the third of what I spend where I live right now.

Elizabeth Adams
Elizabeth Adams
4 months ago

I’m early retired and rely on my investments pay my bills. I get a “paycheck” each month from my investment account – selling index funds when my net worth is within 90% of it’s all time high and pulling cash when my net worth is below the 90% threshold.

I keep about six years of spending in cash and CD’s so I can make it through a six year downturn without having to sell stock. These cash holdings allow me to be aggressive with my other investments and still sleep at night.

In a different interest rate environment, I’d be in bonds rather than cash and CD’s but I’m not willing to take the rate risk in bonds. I keep less than a year’s expenses in each CD so I won’t have to pay much of a penalty in the event of early withdrawal.

Edwin Belen
Edwin Belen
4 months ago

For many years, I didn’t make enough or had enough to keep an emergency fund. I was fortunate to make a good living and finally accumulated 6 months. As I’ve gotten older (51), I carry way too much cash but it seems to make me sleep better.

Richard Gore
Richard Gore
4 months ago

I also used an untaped HELOC as my emergency reserves.

Scrooge_McDuck88
Scrooge_McDuck88
4 months ago

I heard about that on a podcast. Seems to make sense as long as people have the self discipline to not run up the credit line with things other than the emergency. Also, during the 2008 financial crisis, did banks close or reduce HELOCs on people? That’s certainly a risk.

Rick Connor
Rick Connor
4 months ago

I understand and agree with the conventional financial planning guidance of holding 3 to 6 months of expenses in liquid savings. I can’t say my wife and I always met this. There were definitely times when we scrambled to make ends meet. It’s important to understand your personal situation, how secure your employment is, and what your risk are. Do you have short term disability insurance – that helps. Where I worked you were allowed to accumulate up to 400 hours of vacation in a bank. Lots of employees considered that an emergency fund against a layoff.

Bob Wilmes
Bob Wilmes
4 months ago

Caution on using stocks as a store for emergency fund money. There have been rare occasions such as 9/11 when the stock market has been closed. It could also potentially be closed for weeks. I used to hold emergency money as US Savings Bonds which paid a 4 per cent minimum interest that compounded tax free until maturity and was state tax exempt (those were the days!).

These best place today is probably a high yield (like .50 per cent per year – ha!) account at Citibank, American Express or some local credit unions.

Rommel Castro
Rommel Castro
2 months ago
Reply to  Bob Wilmes

I guess it works if you have twice (or more) your emergency fund on stocks and no plans to retire in the next few years.

but yes, I would at least keep 2 months in cash.

Andrew F.
Andrew F.
5 months ago

Jonathan, that strikes me as a clever method and maybe I should re-think this subject. But I’m older than you and on Medicare, so there’s another factor in play. If our MAGI (modified adjusted gross income) exceeds a certain level, I have to pay IRMAA surcharges on Medicare, which can be pretty expensive. So if I needed a big chunk of cash, and got it by selling stock which resulted in a significant long term capital gain, it could trigger the IRMAA problem.

Am I missing something here?

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