How Much Should You Save In Your Emergency Fund?

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You’ve most likely heard many variations of answers when it comes to the question of “How much should I have in my emergency fund?” From $1,000, to six months of expenses, up to a year, and anywhere in between. These answers vary from person to person, so it’s hard to know which amount will be right for you.

We’ve come up with some guidelines for you to evaluate your situation and figure out just how much you should have saved in your emergency fund before taking the next steps towards financial freedom. Check them out below!

What is your living/family situation like?

The first thing you’ll need to consider is how many people you’ll need to support should you have to rely on your emergency fund for a while. If it’s just you, obviously you’ll need less than someone who is married with three children, or who has their elderly parent living with them. Keep in mind that the more people you have to support, the less your emergency fund money will be spent on you directly.

How do you pay for your living arrangements?

Do you have a mortgage? Do you rent an apartment? How long do you want to be able to make payments before going to work again, should you lose your job or have medical leave or maternity/paternity leave? Are you paying for it all yourself, or are you splitting payments with someone?

Do you own a vehicle?

If you car is your primary source of transportation with no options of biking, walking, or public transportation, you need to take that into account when building your fund. If your car breaks down, you have to be able to fix it as soon as possible so you can continue to go to work.

How much do you spend each month on bills?

Similar to how you assess your living payments, figure out how much you pay monthly on bills. Are there any bills you could negotiate to a lower monthly rate? Are there any recurring subscriptions that you could cancel (whether you’re even aware of them or not)? Do you split costs with anyone? Knowing how much goes out each month will help you figure out how much you can put into savings each month, and how much you’ll need to live three-to-six months without worrying about extra income should the situation arise.

How much do you spend on extra expenses (non-necessary)?

Ah, here come the worst part. We all have to have our vices now and again, but how often do you indulge? Those daily coffee runs can add up, so see where you can cut back. After that, figure out how much this monthly cost is, and figure out if you’ll be able to spend that much after you put away your monthly savings contribution.

Do you have savings already?

Perhaps you have some money tucked away already, but you aren’t quite sure what to do with it. Figuring out a goal for your emergency fund helps give those dollars just floating into accounts a job to do. Plus - you’ll have a cushion already, and you’ll be that much closer to hitting your goal and taking your next financial steps.

Do you use healthcare frequently?

How often you need to visit the doctor and dentist will drastically affect your emergency fund. Make sure you have enough saved to cover any co-pays, medication, and hospital visits should an emergency arise.

Do you have debt to pay off?

If you do, hopefully you’re already making monthly payments. Make sure to figure out how much you can pay if you need to rely on your emergency fund to cover costs. That being said, don’t dip into your emergency fund to pay for debt if you don’t have to. Ideally, this account should be used for last-minute emergencies that may come.

Do you expect a major financial crisis to occur in the next year?

Obviously, it’s hard to predict financial crises, but if you feel as though you may have to make a big payment (for example, you have a feeling your car will break down for good and you need solid transportation), it’s good to trust that intuition and budget accordingly. Hope for the best, but expect the worst (or at least, prepare yourself for it).

What number are you comfortable with?

All in all, it really depends on what number you feel you’ll be comfortable living off of for an extended period of time. Ideally. you won’t need to use your emergency fund hardly ever, but it’s good to have a solid number and time frame should you end up in that situation.

Still not sure how much you should save? Contact us for a free consultation, and we’ll be able to tell you exactly what you should do!

My 2019 Financial Goals

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By Amy Lancaster

Me 5 years ago would have never believed that I would have this much control over my money situation. I always thought I was doomed to forever live from paycheck-to-paycheck, stuck in a small apartment eating ramen in the dark and only traveling in my dreams. But, I will say – working at a financial firm has seriously changed my life in terms of my finances. Just from being at Milborn for less than a year, I’ve managed to keep a consistent budget since August and put away over $2,000 in savings.

Still, there’s always room for growth – and, as a millennial always being told to live her “best life”, I know I can’t settle for my current situation. While I am in a much better position than I was just a couple years ago, this momentum has given me motivation to aim my goals a bit higher and start experiencing life the way I’ve always wanted.

With that being said, here are my financial goals for 2019.

  1. Save over 3 months’ worth of income in an emergency fund. I’ve done a lot of research into what exactly I should have in my emergency fund, and it’s ranged from $1,000 all the way to one year’s worth of income. Of course, I believe that having more in there is better, but at some point, I don’t want to spend the rest of my career putting away money into an emergency fund and instead put that money to work, so I’d like to have a cap-off. While the finish line will be six months for me, this year it’s more realistic for me to get to three months.

  2. Put money away towards my July trip to Japan so that I don’t have to dip into money from any other accounts. This is a goal I am very excited about. I’ve wanted to go to Japan for a very long time, and it’s been years since I’ve left the country. I never thought I’d be able to properly budget my money or make enough to make it a reality to actually save for a trip, but now that I’m in a more comfortable position financially, I want to take advantage of that. The goal is to have $3,710 (which, according to Money We Have, is an ideal budget for a  two-week trip), which means I’ll need to save $742 a month from now until July (along with the $530 I already have put away).

  3. Buy a new computer. After my big financial save for Japan, my next savings goal will be to get myself a new computer. While the one I have is good for day-to-day work and school, I want a computer that can handle my photography and creative endeavors, and one that I know I can rely on for years to come (whereas I’ve had this computer for less than two years and the keyboard is already broken, as well as the laptop-to-tablet switch feature is glitchy). The model I’m eyeing up – MacBook Air 256GHz (in rose gold, of course) is $1,399, which means if I want it by January of next year, I’ll need to put away roughly $117 every two weeks starting in August.

  4. Start putting away 10% of income towards retirement. After that goal, I will think of another savings goal (probably save up for an iMac, because I’d also like a desktop computer), but I know I really need to look into saving for retirement because – I’ll be candid – I have nothing saved. Stocks, IRA’s, and all that jargon really scared me until I started working for Milborn. Now, I have a better understanding just from hearing the day-in-day-out talk between Mark and Drew. By knowing I can save for retirement and still have fun in the present, I can be a little more willing to, you know, actually save.

  5. Invest? Actual investing, however, still intimidates me a little bit. I don’t have to start paying off school loans until I graduate (summer of 2020), so I may hold off on this until I pay those off – which are thankfully as of right now my only source of debt. Nevertheless, I will continue to do my research so that I have a clear plan of how exactly I want to invest when the time comes.

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Writing down goals always helps me stay on track. Plus, sharing goals keeps me accountable! What are you financial goals for 2019? Comment them below!

How Tracking My Budget Has Changed My Life

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By Amy Lancaster. Originally published in the October 2018 Issue of the Milborn Newsletter.

Like most people my age (I'm assuming), most of my 20's have been less about financial freedom, and more about stressing about where my next dollar was coming and going. My adult life so far has been filled with nights of staying home, dodging plans, and not getting any sleep, rather than going out, partying, and traveling. Even more so, there were no saving habits to be found. Being almost 30, I knew things had to change.

Budgeting was something I knew I had to do - and wanted to do - but it wasn't until I started working at a financial firm and seeing the ins and outs of money and investing that I became truly interested in fixing my financial situation. From only two months of keeping track of my spending, I've managed to not only finally open a savings account, but I've tucked away over $700 that I just assumed I didn't have lying around otherwise. Here are a few more things I've discovered since tracking my budget:

1. I spend way too much on eating out. Lattes, sushi specials at the market, an alcoholic beverage or two - it adds up, and quickly. I'd always defend my eating out habit with "Well, I can spend $100 a week on groceries, or I can spend $5 a meal three times a day for seven days, which comes out to be the same amount." Oh Amy, you are so naiive. I'm still struggling with this, but being able to see how much I do spend on eating out (and so far, it's been 2 for 2 on being more than groceries a month) helps me curb this habit and see that I could be putting that amount towards something way more necessary (say, a new computer. I'm tired of living this USB keyboard life since my laptop's keyboard broke).

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2. I discovered automated payments I didn't even know I had. The very first day I started tracking my spending, I noticed a $40 monthly payment for a resume website I used once. Immediately I canceled it, and thanked myself for tracking my spending, otherwise who knows how long I would have paid $40/month for something I didn't even need or use. 

3. My financial goals are more tangible. I haven't had a car since February of 2017. While I've been able to mostly get around and have had wonderful people in my life be so gracious to give me rides or loan me their car, I do miss the freedom of having my own vehicle. Now that I am tracking my budget, I can stop thinking "One day when I graduate and have a high-paying job I can finally get a car", and start putting away x amount every month and physically seeing my money grow towards that goal. That trip to Japan that I've been wanting to take for years? It doesn't seem so far fetched of an idea anymore.

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4. It makes me excited for the future. One of my biggest fears for a while now has been being a financial burden on whoever my long-term partner ends up being. It's hard to admit, but in order to fix yourself, you need to admit what your problems are, and be candid with yourself. Now that I'm with that person, the last thing I want to do is put myself in that situation. I don't need to earn more than him (let's be real, I probably won't, He's a scientist, and I will brag about that at every opportunity), but rather have us spend our money on something for both of us - a spa day, a dream trip, our future home - than have him spend money on bailing me out of a bill or loan or a debt situation. By fixing my financial situation now, I can guarantee the future will be better for us - and it makes me look forward to it in a way I never have before. 

5. I can sleep at night. If that isn't financial freedom (or at least freedom from stress), I don't know what is.