An essential part of a sound financial plan is an emergency fund. An emergency fund is a savings cushion that's stashed away and left untouched until an emergency arises. You may have heard it referred to as a rainy-day fund. And believe me, that rainy day will come.
However, a Bankrate survey from June 2015 found that 29% of Americans have no emergency savings whatsoever. This is a problem. But if you're among the Americans that have no emergency savings, we're here to motivate you to get started.
Bankrate is proud to be a participant in America Saves Week, which runs Feb. 22-27. America Saves and the American Education Savings Council started this initiative to promote good savings behavior and give individuals a chance to assess their savings.
We compiled stories from people who experienced a time in their life where an emergency fund saved them from financial hardship. Let their stories be inspiration to get started with your own rainy-day fund.
Vicki Gunvalson (@vgunvalson)
"I never spend more than I make, and I stress that to my kids the same principles as well. I always pay myself first and when I have anything left over after paying my bills and taxes, I deposit the remainder back into my investment account. You never know what surprises that life will bring, so you always will need something to fall back on. For example, I was sick a few times in my life and wasn't able to work, and my investment accounts allowed me to pay my bills on time and not get behind. Having savings helps protects you from life's unexpected such as health issues, loss of income or loss of a job."
Chad Rogers (@chadrogerstv)
"As a Realtor, it is important to save a percentage of each commission for taxes in an interest-bearing account so that at the end of year I don't find myself in a hole. Although I don't run a large corporation with thousands of employees, it's important that I treat my finances as a business. Plus, I always get to take a big chunk of what I over-save around the holidays and transfer it into my personal account, which instantly puts me in the holiday spirit. It doesn't get much merrier than that!"
Amanda Rowe (@AmandaRoweBR)
"I never really paid attention to my finances. I knew I had money in my "savings," but I mostly relied on my checking account. I didn't have a steady job, but I did office/intern work every summer to make enough money to get me through the school year. I never really had a money problem.
When I went off to college, I paid even less attention to my finances, other than "Hey Mom, did you remember to pay my rent?" When I packed up my car to come home for the summer, I went to fill up with gas and my debit card wouldn't work. I went inside to try again and the clerk said I had "insufficient funds." I have never been more embarrassed in my life! I had no cash, no credit card, and my checking account was overdrawn.
Luckily, my roommates owed me some money (probably from a pizza night or movie night) and I was able to fill up my tank to make it home. When I got home, I went to the bank and enrolled in overdraft protection and I was able to transfer money from my savings account to save my bank account until I got my next paycheck. I also signed up for a bank-sponsored credit card that teaches you about keeping good credit and encourages you to pay more attention to your finances!"
Laura Dunn (@LauraDunner)
"I had a flat tire a year ago, but it happened near an auto shop, so I was able to take it the rest of the way there. For some reason, though, I had no access to my bank account. (I think it was in the middle of a maintenance period.)
Fortunately, I had about $300 left in a cash emergency fund in a drawer at home. That saved me from needing to leave my car in the shop, where they would have charged me for each day it was there.
Because my apartment is so close to the shop, I was able to get a ride from one of the employees, which enabled me to gain access to that cash fund! (I'm sure I could have gotten a ride from a friend if the employee hadn't been willing, though.)
That was the first time I'd ever had to use an emergency fund, and I could not have been more grateful!"
Caroline Farhat (@carolinenico)
"A year ago, we undertook the gargantuan task of renovating a 100-year old apartment. We were warned that renovations are almost always delayed but naively thought our experience would be different. We gave ourselves a month buffer, but of course stuff happens, and our renovation ended up being delayed for almost 2 months! We had to extend our apartment lease for one more month and were so thankful we had our savings to cover the extra cost! I always knew having an extra cushion is important, but this situation was the first time I actually experienced the true value of savings first-hand. Saving may not be as fun as a shopping spree or vacation, but it can help you stress less. In my book, that's worth a ton!"
Claes Bell (@ClaesBell)
"Florida rain is different. It's sudden and loud and so thick you can't see much past the end of your driveway. It pounds your house in a deluge that seems alarming -- even apocalyptic -- to non-Floridians seeing it for the first time. Being a Florida homeowner means a constant struggle to keep this rain out, learning to fear that drip-drip-drip during the height of an hourslong deluge.
That's where my wife and I found ourselves a few years ago. We'd known our roof was on its last legs when we bought the house. According to county records, the roof was 25 years old, and the roof tiles were "crunchy" -- brittle underfoot and prone to cracking.
Then, one morning after a particularly intense rainstorm, it happened. I walked in to our bathroom to find water on the floor and a stain on the ceiling. I tried patching it and applying a white-roof sealant to fix the problem, but the drip continued, especially during heavy rain. When it started to get worse, we knew there was no getting around it -- we'd need a new roof.
At that time, the housing market hadn't recovered enough locally to hope for a home equity loan or line of credit. The only thing that kept us from having to put thousands of dollars on a credit card, or just watch our house crumble and mold from the rain, was our emergency fund. Thanks to the still-sluggish market for home repairs, we were able to get a deal on the roof that allowed us to just cover the cost with our emergency fund.
Sure, it was painful to watch those thousands of dollars that we'd so painfully saved over the years fly out the door. But the sense of relief we felt knowing our house would be safe from that fierce Florida rain, without being flooded with debt, was worth it."