Most people I know are two steps from complete disaster and don’t even know it. I realize this economy sucks- it totally does. I’ve seen people with prestigious degrees and mounds of student loan debt have to sit for job offers for months and months on end, while other long timers in their industry get laid off from budget cuts. This economy has left no one unscathed completely and for that, I really am sorry.
What I’m not going to apologize for is that most of us in dire financial situations are in this position because we did it to ourselves. It’s easy to get complacent with a job you’ve worked hard for, and yes, it’s okay to tell yourself you need the shiny things in life or a few additional creature comforts- but some of us are sitting ducks, blissfully unaware that we’re on the brink of losing everything since we aren’t prepared.
If you haven’t gotten your house in order and put aside some of your play money for an emergency fund, your fixin’ for disaster and screw the economy- you’ve got nobody to blame but yourself.
There are no guarantees in today’s job market. The economy might rebound, but who is to say that job you’ve vested your college career and younger working years to secure will even be around in the future? Today we are competing with outsourcing to cheaper labor markets, our work becoming irrelevant with emerging computer technology and the complete restructuring of industries in a changing global economy.
Even if you aren’t fighting in today’s job market, you’re fighting against time and youth. Nobody will feel sorry for you if you didn’t prepare yourself financially for life’s totally un-fun moments (i.e. car accident, surgery or medications).
Crappy situations happen to everyone, and you’d be silly to think they won’t happen to you or your family. This economy has enabled generations of decent Americans to fall victim to high interest debt, foreclosure, and forbearance simply because they falsely believed they were secure.
So what should you do? Start an automatic transfer of 10-20% of your monthly income to a separate savings account until you have enough to cover at least 6 months of living expenses. I recommend using Capital One 360.
You also need to comb through your expenses to see if there’s anything obviously silly to keep paying for. Whatever services you get rid of, or whatever discounts you can find, apply that to your new emergency fund.
I know many financial bloggers like to harp on financial preparedness. I get that it’s annoying and repetitive- but I’m saying it for a reason. Just the other day I heard a friend of mine tell me how she has nothing saved since she has a “shopping habit.” While she’s not in debt to pay for her admittedly adorable wardrobe, she is a few steps away from financial uncertainty (oh yes, and her student loans will be coming due soon, I don’t think she remembers that). Another friend is biting his nails since his student loans are nearly due and the job search is taking longer than anticipated, while yet another was finally offered a job but doesn’t have enough saved or decent credit history to either relocate or buy a car.
These situations just suck- being unprepared to financially cover yourself when life goes awry is a sucky topic to discuss (You’re welcome!) but you know what sucks even more? Getting a great offer but knowing you can’t act on it because your’e broke or in debt.
You could lose your job (boo!) or you could be offered a new job and need a better car (yay!) You may need to repair your roof (boo!) or you may find the home of your dreams for dirt cheap and need to put an offer in immediately (yay!)
You should have savings to account for the good and the bad in life. Be prepared for when it sucks, and be ready to rock when an opportunity comes your way and capitalize on it with your cash.
So you know, I practice what I preach. I have an emergency fund that would cover my rent + expenses for 5 months (plus the money in my checking account that could also be used). I realize that’s not enough, so once I get through this job transition I’m going to dedicate any extra income I can find towards funding my safety net.