When you live paycheck-to-paycheck, you usually feel at the mercy of your employer. If you're lucky enough to have a fair, understanding employer, that might not be so bad. However, if your employer is a jerk or you just don't like your job, you probably feel powerless and stuck. Here's how an emergency fund can help with that. Photo by Scott Swigart.
In basic terms, an emergency fund is a stash of savings to use in times of financial stress. It's a simple concept, but it's a powerful first step toward feeling in control of your finances. Kate Dore of the finance blog Cashville Skyline shares her own story about being stuck in a job she didn't enjoy. She discussed how an emergency fund jumpstarted her career switch:
My lack of savings made me feel especially powerless.
I felt like a failure for having so little to show for my years of hard work. I couldn't afford to take a risk on a lower paying job.
So I made I vow to take back control — slash my expenses as much as possible and start building my emergency fund.
Over time, she learned to save, and eventually, she felt powerful enough to leave her job for a new one. It makes sense. Money gives you options, and options make you feel like you have choices and power over your destiny. Here's how Living Rich Cheaply puts it:
Employees who live paycheck to paycheck and have tons of debt will put up with working in a hostile environment because they know that losing or leaving their job would result in a financial disaster. Having some money saved up will give you the power and courage to stand up for yourself... Knowing that you have financial flexibility and that you'd be OK without a steady paycheck for a little while will give you the freedom and strength to withstand the possible repercussions of being let go from your job. While it may still not be easy, not having the money will make it nearly impossible.
Even if you're in debt and struggling, it's important to have an emergency fund. Not only does it help you steer clear of debt traps when times are especially tough, it also makes you feel a little more powerful. An emergency fund isn't going to solve all of your problems overnight, but it's one step toward feeling a sense of control. And feeling in control is huge when it comes to managing your money.
How My Emergency Fund Helped Me Change Careers [Cashville Skyline]