April Lewis-Parks | March 23, 2012

Are you prepared for an emergency?

It almost never fails. Individuals may be finally gaining ground on paying off their credit card debt or putting more money into savings when their car breaks down or they require medical treatment. These financial wrenches can be enough to derail an individual's finances if they are not adequately prepared for them, so having a back-up emergency plan is a crucial part of a sound money management plan.

When it comes to coping with an unexpected financial issue, having emergency savings to turn to is always recommended. Most experts urge Americans to have enough money saved up to cover at least three to six months' worth of expenses. However, in this current economic climate, many professionals err on the side of caution and have raised these parameters to nine months to one years' worth of emergency cash. Having a sufficient cushion can help individuals avoid being forced to turn to credit resources or drain their regular savings or retirement accounts.

In some cases, adults may not have emergency savings to turn to, in which case they may need to explore other options. Re-organizing their monthly budget to find out if they can squeeze enough out of their income to cover the costs should be the first step individuals take. Sometimes consumers may not realize how much they are spending on discretionary items, groceries and other household items, and find that if they cut back, they have significantly more to work with. In addition, there are several expenses that can be canceled or downgraded to give an individual more income until the crisis has passed. Cable packages, cellphone bills and even dry cleaning services are all examples of this type of spending.

In some cases, adults may have few other options, but to turn to their credit cards. Before doing so, however, individuals should consider visiting a credit counselor or seeking financial advice to ensure they have exhausted all other options before they take on excess credit, according to MoneyRates.com. For example, if the emergency is a medical expense, some hospitals may allow patients to make monthly payments. In other cases, adults may overlook a hole in their budget that a credit counselor may catch. Working with a professional may help individuals to see all their options more clearly. 

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