MADISON, Wis. (9/17/13)--According to the Credit Union National Association's recent Women's Financial Survey, roughly 59% of women ages 45 to 60 don't have an emergency savings fund that would cover expenses for six months. The survey also found that men are more likely than women to have an emergency fund.
Without emergency savings, a job loss, a medical emergency, or a large unexpected expense can leave no choice but for women to turn to credit cards, home equity, payday loans, or retirement savings.
Before you start funding an emergency savings account, first determine how much you need to set aside each payday to cover living expenses for an extended amount of time. Compared with previous generations, women in their 50s or 60s now are more likely to face rising health-care costs and longer lengths of unemployment in the event of job loss. Women should aim to save six months to a year's worth of expenses for long-term emergency savings, and $1,000 to $2,000 for immediate emergency savings.
Once you've determined how much to save, decide where to put your money. Your long-term funds should be accessible--but not too easily--in money-market accounts or in certificates of deposit/share certificates that will mature in one year or less. Keep short-term emergency savings in an account that's immediately accessible at your credit union.
If you also are paying off debt, first build up a $1,000 short-term emergency fund. Then start eliminating your debt and continue to build your emergency fund until you're debt-free. As you pay bills off, put the same amount of money you were putting toward monthly payments into your emergency savings fund.
Here are ways to fund an emergency savings account:
Empty your pockets at the end of the day and save all your change. Use it to open and grow a small savings account.
Use your tax refund to begin or increase savings.
Cut back on small, unnecessary expenditures.
Get your family involved.
Put your savings on auto-pilot. Set up an automatic transfer from your paycheck to your emergency savings account.