You know those pet peeves that are so trivial, you really have a hard time justifying devoting a lot of thought, much less an entire post to, but you just can’t stop thinking about it and you rant anyways?
This is one of those. And if you just go on and run away from this blog today, I totally get it just come back in the future because I’ve never really done this and I don’t think it’ll be much of a habit for me but today, it’s on.
I am going to make this post even more ridiculous by talking about a trivial pet peeve that is related to something I hardly even talk about anymore– personal finance. Why I don’t talk about it much anymore is another post entirely and we’ll get there one day, just not today.
Today I’m going to focus on the supposedly sacred and magnificent “emergency fund.”
Everyone who knows anything about personal finance knows about the emergency fund even if they don’t call it that but I’m not talking about those people today so don’t think about them right now. For the uninitiated (and it’s a good thing, I’m starting to think), an emergency fund is a bunch of money stashed away strictly for the use of EMERGENCIES.
Definition of EMERGENCY1: an unforeseen combination of circumstances or the resulting state that calls for immediate action2: an urgent need for assistance or relief
When it comes to personal finance and the “emergency fund”, it’s referring to definition #2. In other words, your life just got a kick in the ass of varying size because something went wrong and it is having a direct impact on your needs being.
Did I lose you?
Ok, emergencies in the personal finance world should be things like:
It is these epic “Oh Sh!t” moments that are supposed to be when an emergency comes into play. But if you read some personal finance blogs, you would not know this. And that annoys me.
Why people tap into “emergency funds” for things outside of true emergencies is beyond my scope of understanding. You can have an emergency fund AND savings you know. As a matter of fact, you should definitely have both and they should be built up at the same time in my honest opinion because otherwise you know what’s going to keep happening– tap, tap, tap into the emergency fund. And if, god forbid, a true emergency strikes?
Having a real “emergency fund” is a pretty scary thing because it is a solid acknowledgment of the fact that the world we live in is, at its core, entirely unpredictable and out of our control. And this spans every single aspect of our lives– even the things we cherish most most dearly. It’s terrifying. And having the emergency fund as a real emergency fund is a conscious acceptance of that fact.
You know, we really can’t budget for every single curve ball life throws our way. Some are real gentle and easy to nail but others can be some sharper ones that are much harder to nail. But just because the sharper curve balls cause some sort of unpleasantness in our lives doesn’t qualify it as a real emergency.
A lot of people have a lot of different savings methods. Some people have targeted savings accounts. Some people have a myriad of savings tools in place for a myriad of different methods (like CD ladders plus mattresses plus whatever else it is that lets them sleep at night). And they’re all really cool and I think you should definitely think about something that works for you. Just leave the emergency fund alone.
Here’s an idea– leave the emergency fund for the true “Oh sh!t” moments in your life but have another fund in place for the “D@mmit” moments too, because hopefully those happen way more often in your life than the other ones do. In a perfect world neither would happen, I could eat a plate of slutty brownies without ill effect, and all three of my children would be perfect little angels who make no messes at all, ever. But that’s not the reality of the world and we just need to move on.
If you can’t decide whether or not something is worthy of an “Oh sh!t” or a “D@mmit” ask yourself this– how far are you willing to go to access the money needed to cover the expense of said “Oh sh!t”/”D@mmit” item? The ones that you would do even the thing that would make you cry? That’s an “Oh sh!t” thing and a perfectly good reason to access your emergency fund.
Do you use and abuse the term “emergency fund”? Do you think I’m being sort of insane about this? I know it’s probably a semantics thing at play but god bless my English-loving heart, I can’t let it go! Am I sort of justified? Do you do the thing where you have an emergency fund and you absolutely refuse to let it go below such and such a threshold because that’s too risky? WHY DO YOU DO THAT? Why not just take some of it out and save it elsewhere and then bulk all your savings up together? Is it because saying you have an emergency fund of such and such amount makes you feel better even though you and everyone else know it’s not just for emergencies? Is it a peace of mind thing? But wouldn’t it be better to have another fund and a TRUE emergency fund or would that be too much money in savings for you to be comfortable with? Do I need a brownie?