Billionaire Shark Tank host Mark Cuban
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Billionaire Mark Cuban believes in saving for emergencies. In 2017, Cuban told Vanity Fair: “If you don’t like your job at some point, or you get fired or you have to move, or something goes wrong, you’re going to need at least six months income.” And then in 2020, in an interview with Men’s Health, he upped his guidance on emergency savings: “Once you’re able to save, I used to say six months, now I want you to have a year of expenses saved up because there’s so much uncertainty with COVID. Then, you can start investing and putting it into something that can appreciate.” (See the best savings account rates you may get here.)
If you’re keen to save now, we’ve got good news: It’s a better time to put that money in a savings account than it has been in years. As Greg McBride, chief financial analyst at Bankrate, recently pointed out: The rates on high-yield savings accounts are sometimes the highest they’ve been since 2009. Indeed, while even higher-paying savings accounts were only paying about 0.50% early this year, many are now paying more than 2%.
What other pros have to save about how much money to save in an emergency fund
Pros vary in their advice on how much you need in your emergency fund, but nearly everyone says you need to have one.
While six months of income is a good rule, in general, the amount you personally need in your emergency fund may vary, says certified financial planner Jesse Carlucci of Arrow Investment Management. “Six months is a good criteria, but it really depends on your personal situation. Emergency funds need to be tailored to your specific situation because the purpose of the fund is to pay for all your monthly expenses in the case of an emergency,” he says.
Those that might need more than six months include one-income households, unsecure jobs, high career turnover time and a poor medical history, says Carlucci. “I recommend a three-month emergency fund for dual incomes with secure jobs and a six-month emergency fund for single income households or those with some uncertainty about their prospects at their current position,” says Carlucci.
Meanwhile, Austin Hon, certified financial planner at Momentum Private Wealth Management, recommends you have at least three months of living expenses, all the way up to 18 months. “Six months seems to be the sweet spot. We typically determine the amount of cash to hold by their current role at their employer, single- or dual-income household, risk of being laid-off and their taxable investment account balance,” says Hon.
Certified financial planner Holly Donaldson of Holly Donaldson Financial Planning prefers to ask people how long it would take them to find a new job if they lost theirs today. “Normally the answer is somewhere between two and four weeks for healthcare workers and nine months for corporate executives. Whatever the answer is, then I suggest having that much in expenses, not necessarily income, in the emergency fund,” says Donaldson.
Many experts agree that the amount of your emergency fund should be based on monthly required living expenses, not neccessarily monthly income. “The way we calculate this is we take the total amount they are spending in monthly bills, servicing debt and discretionary spending. We make an assumption that savings would stop during a time of unemployment or income loss and the amount someone needs in their emergency fund depends on how much they need to maintain their lifestyle on a monthly basis,” says certified financial planner Angela Moore of Modern Money Education.
Certified financial planner Annie McQuiklen of Forever Financial Advisors says discretionary expenses such as vacations do not have to be included in the essential calculation. “I like to see my clients able to cover three months of all expenses or six months of essential expenses. In addition, I look at other sources of emergency cash and recommend that all homeowners have a HELOC in place, just in case it’s needed. The time to qualify for this is before the emergency happens, you don’t want to be doing so after you’ve lost your job,” says McQuiklen. And if you have a HELOC in place, the amount in your emergency fund can be smaller.
The trick, according to Hon, is finding the balance of having enough cash socked away to eliminate the mental stress of job loss, while putting every dollar to work. “Having a cash reserve gives you options should you need them,” says Hon.
Certified financial planner Elaine King of Family and Money Matters Institute says that while six months may be acceptable right now, the pandemic showed us that liquid [savings] for 12 months is best. “Because volatility can bring interruptions in your job, business and also opportunities,” says King.
Some experts also recommend having additional reserves to cover foreseeable emergencies like car repairs, household repairs or medical expenses. “These items aren’t an if, but when, and they should be saved separately from emergency cash reserves,” says certified financial planner James Kinney of Financial Pathways.
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