If you've taken the time and effort to establish an emergency fund, you're probably feeling pretty proud of yourself. You should! However, you shouldn't forget about it after you build it. In order for an emergency fund to be effective, it needs to be properly stocked at all times. Life is always changing, so it only makes sense that your emergency fund will change, too.
Personally, my wife and I like to keep six months’ worth of our expenses in cash to cover any emergencies that may pop up, such as job loss. The amount you keep in your emergency fund may differ, but here are a few times you should re-evaluate it to see if you need to change the amount that you store in it:
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You’ve Drained Your Emergency Fund
If you have to use money in your emergency fund, you should definitely evaluate what you need to do to fill it up again.
Most people would try to fill their emergency fund to its previous level, but this is the perfect opportunity to make sure that your fund is properly set.
Were you stressed that you might not have enough money when you had to use your emergency fund? If so, you may want to increase the amount in your fund beyond the previous amount.
Your Expenses Have Changed
Your expenses will inevitably change as you move through various stages in your life. Common life events that result in major changes in your expenses could include buying or selling a home, moving from one rental to another, or getting a new job. If your expenses have increased, chances are that you'll want to increase your emergency fund, too.
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My family’s expenses will be increasing when we build our new home, which means that my wife and I need to add some money to our emergency fund to make up for our new mortgage payment. However, if your expenses have permanently decreased, you may be able to take some money out of your previous emergency fund amount and invest it in a more productive manner while still keeping six months’ worth of expenses on hand.
Your Job Stability Changes
Job stability was a huge factor in determining the size our emergency fund. We felt that our current job situation was fairly stable, and that, as such, we could replace our income within six months of losing a job.
However, if we found out that one of our jobs suddenly became less stable, or that it would be significantly more difficult to find a new job, we'd seriously consider increasing our emergency fund to cover eight — or even 12 — months’ worth of expenses.
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You Add a Family Member
Adding a family member can have a huge impact both on your expenses and on the size of your emergency fund. This hits home for us because my wife and I will be having our first child later this year. We know that we're going to have to increase our expenses to pay for our baby's needs. We made an estimate of these additional costs, and increased the size of our fund by that amount.
However, when you add another dependent to your family, you now have even more pressure to make sure that you can make it through rough times with your emergency fund. My wife and I opted to keep ours at six months, but you may want to add another couple of months’ worth of expenses to yours to account for that pressure.
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An emergency fund is an extremely financially freeing tool. It allows you to relax a bit when you might otherwise be stressed over how you're going to pay for an emergency. Make sure you regularly re-evaluate your fund to make sure that it fits your needs.