So You Have Your Emergency Fund—Here's What You Need to Do Next
For financially savvy types (or anyone hoping to set themselves up for financial success), establishing a rainy day fund and then an emergency fund is a far-reaching milestone. Doing so can set someone up for financial independence and ensure crises small and large can’t derail longer-term financial goals. But once those financial security blankets are funded and ready to be used should the need arise, what’s next?
It doesn’t mean you can stop saving forever, that’s for sure.
“Once we have that financial safety net established and we have gone on and have that traditional emergency fund set aside, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with setting money aside every paycheck or every month into a savings account that’s dedicated solely to taking vacations or maybe treating yourself to a new designer bag once a year or once a season,” says Lauren Anastasio, CFP at personal finance company SoFi.
Saving money should be a lifelong habit, whether you’re saving for major life events (having a baby, retirement) or short-term splurges (the next holiday season, a vacation), so you can’t just stop once your emergency fund is ready. The key is to balance so-called mature savings decisions—saving for retirement, say—with the splurges that alleviate the stress and tension of striving to save money.
“This is really where people get to prioritize what’s important to them,” Anastasio says.
If you plan to get married in the next few years, saving for the wedding (or the honeymoon) might be a priority, but so is putting money into a fund for this year’s holiday season gift-giving and (always) adding to retirement savings. Commit first to putting some of your savings into accounts that contribute to your financial health, such as that retirement fund, then put a predetermined (ideally, smaller) amount or percentage of your paycheck into accounts for expenses that are more wants than needs. The last thing you want to do is dig into your emergency fund to pay for a vacation, so planning ahead for that vacation—and setting a clear budget and savings goal—both allows you to splurge and save smartly.
Just be sure you’re prioritizing objectively. Sure, you want that big fairytale wedding or honeymoon, but is it more important to you to buy a home? Putting more into that down payment fund than your wedding fund is the smarter choice, then. (Your wedding will still be wonderful.)
It might help to sit down and write down your major financial goals, plus the non-financial goals that may cost a lot of money, such as having a baby. Ranking them in order of importance and how far away they are (in the case of that wedding, for example) can help you distribute your hard-earned savings. When you’re struggling to save, focus on the goals on the other side of your savings accounts or investments—they should be worth the effort.
“Being financially responsible doesn’t mean that we can’t enjoy our money and we can’t see ourselves doing things that we want in life,” Anastasio says. “It’s just a matter or making sure that we have the financial provisions to do so without compromising our financial health in some other way.”
So go ahead and save for that two-week vacation; just don’t let other, higher-priority savings efforts fall by the wayside in order to do so.