In case of emergency, have fund waiting

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Before the recession, six weeks’ to three months’ worth of living expenses seemed adequate for an emergency fund. But the downturn revealed how shortsighted that view could be. I’m Clark Palmer with your personal finance minute.

The truth is that the guidelines about emergency funds never changed, says David Jones, president of the Association of Independent Consumer Credit Counseling Agencies.

But every family is different. Those hit hard by the recession may take much longer to reach their goals, says Liz Weston, author of “The 10 Commandments of Money.”

That’s why the first step to building an emergency fund is creating a family budget to figure out how much you can realistically save. After you tackle credit card debt, you should reignite your retirement savings.

That’s when you can start thinking about your emergency fund. It’s best to start small. An initial goal could be to sock away enough to live for one month if your income stopped.

Once your mini-fund is in place, you can start to expand the amount of time you want it to cover.

For more tips on starting an emergency fund, visit I’m Clark Palmer.