8 20-Somethings On Exactly How Much Is In Their Emergency Fund Right Now

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No matter how much a person has (or doesn’t have) in their bank account, conversations about finances aren’t typically watercooler talk. Just look at Donald Trump — dude has billions and “trillions” of dollars, yet he still won’t hand over his tax returns.

So when we reached out to our contributors and asked them to tell us exactly how much they had in their emergency fund right at the second they received the email, we weren’t expecting such honest answers. Whether you’re just starting your emergency fund, you’re a pro at saving, or you’re just plain curious as to how other twenty-somethings are handling their money, these stories are worth the read.

1. “Right now, my emergency fund is a savings account with like $40 in it, which is sacred and not to be touched. I got fired back in June, so that kind of shot down some of my savings. I have a new job now, and I’m trying to save up a bit of money just for my peace of mind, but my budget is pretty tight. I also have a credit card with some wiggle room on it, so if I got in a major bind I could use that.

“In February, I crashed my car, and my car payment doubled when I got a new one, but I had to have it or I’d have been out of a job. Saving is hard on a tight budget, but I’m trying to make room for it. I’m really counting on tax refunds to help me pull myself out of some of this debt and get me back on the right track. Until then, I’m just trying to maintain and not gain any more debt. Between both of my current jobs, I’m succeeding.

“I like having an emergency fund of some kind because sometimes things happen. Speeding tickets, extra charges and fees, health problems, taxes. If something catches me unexpectedly, I want to be prepared. I have family that I could ask for money if I had to, but I hate doing that. I don’t do it unless I absolutely have to — as in, ‘ask for money or be homeless’ have to. If I hadn’t had an emergency fund and a bit of a cushion saved up when I got fired, I’d have been in bad trouble.” —Claire, Secretary/Graphic Designer, 23

2. “Right now in my emergency fund I have $800 in combined savings and credit cards. My fiancé and I saved it by putting back $50-$200 of our paychecks for the last couple of months. It’s important for me to have an emergency fund, because I have no idea what’s going to happen in my life, and by preparing for the worst, you’re never surprised. I’ve had a lot of cars break down, and I want to always have a running vehicle or pay a surprise bill when one crops up.” —Shannon, Writer, 26

3. “My husband and I have $61,725 in our bank account, but $82,610 in easy-to-get, no-penalty stock markets. We also have money in retirement accounts, but we don’t count those toward our emergency fund. My husband and I both work and we have no kids, so we made a budget to save $3,000 a month, which has accumulated a lot in just 1.5 years. We thankfully have no debt, so we were able to save money while in college as well, from jobs and getting money back from college. My husband’s parents also had a college fund for him, so when he had school paid for we were able to use all $45,000 of that to start our emergency fund.

“It’s important to us to have this emergency fund, because you never know what life is going to throw at you. When you have a cushion and something happens, it doesn’t feel like a big deal, because you have the money to pay for it. That doesn’t mean it’s not annoying when you run over a nail and have to buy four new tires, but it also doesn’t put any strain on finances when you do. It also makes marriage a lot easier. Most marriages end because of financial issues. My husband and I have never fought over finances, and I believe having an emergency fund is a big part of that.” —Alice, Staff Accountant, 23

4. “As of today I have $4,500 in my savings account. I try to set aside $250 from every paycheck or whatever I can afford to part with. Some months are better than others. The amount I can save isn’t always something I have control over, and that’s why it’s important for me to save money when I can. I’ve learned that I only have so much control over certain types of financial situations.

“A few years back when I was living in my first apartment, my car broke down out of nowhere. The cost to repair it was outrageous and I bought a used one. I couldn’t afford a new car payment and I didn’t have an emergency fund at the time — not because I couldn’t, but because I just didn’t. I bought a $2,000 car, spent all the cash I had, maxed out all of my credit cards, and spent the next six months regretting it.

“After that, I decided the stress wasn’t worth it, and I started saving.  I’ve been prepared for everything that’s happened since then. My plan is to just keep setting money aside for my future. Maybe I’ll use some of it for my wedding, a down payment on a house, a vacation, or if I find myself out of work (not by choice).” —Amanda, Chemist, 28

5. “Just this month, I reached my year-long $6,000 goal for my emergency fund. Since I split rent and have minimized my food budget with some savvy shopping, $6,000 can cover my expenses for 3-6 months. This also covers my deductible should any major medical emergencies arise.

“When I decided to get serious about saving this money, I knew I had to be disciplined. So out of each month’s budget came the non-negotiables: Housing, food, water, transportation — and because I had no debt — retirement, and now my emergency fund. Off the top of each check came a set amount (dependent on that month’s unique expenses) to be set into my savings account. Giving those dollars a name before I ever even received them prevented me from mindlessly spending too much on clothes or entertainment and reaching the end of the month with nothing left to save.

“Recently, I’ve seen the benefits of having an emergency fund first-hand. Just before making a move to a new state, I was laid off suddenly from my job (I was supposed to be a remote employee after the move). I was jobless for a little over a month. Then, we quickly found that our new apartment was infested with mold (ew!), requiring yet another move, complete with another round of rent, deposits, and moving and cleaning fees. You never know what life is going to throw at you, but having an emergency fund helps keep difficult situations from becoming a tragedy. Due to detailed budgeting, I knew exactly where all of my money was going and was able to easily move around some numbers. I barely had to dip into my savings account at all!” —Hannah, Training Specialist/Instructional Designer, 24

6. “Since I’ve started working at JB hunt in September of 2014, I’ve added $100 each month into a savings account that I use for emergencies only. The total amount of this account now equals up to $2,400. It isn’t much to save each month and would probably go to things I don’t need anyway. I haven’t had to use any money out of my savings as of yet, fingers crossed. This account is something I will only use if I ever have car trouble, need to check into the emergency room, or have an out-of-the blue hiccup.

“I think it’s important for everyone to make a savings/emergency account for themselves as soon as possible. Even if the emergency includes falling behind on rent one month, it’s still there to help you out. If you ever catch yourself in a bind, you have a little help that you forgot all about.” —Paige, Client Manager, 25

7. “Currently in my emergency fund, I have exactly $778.34. I’ve always had a savings account, but the only action it used to see was birthday money from grandparents. Back in May, I bought my first house. My first night in my bachelorette pad I was feeling so great, so independent, so fabulous…then I woke up the next morning to my kitchen floor being flooded due to a leak in my refrigerator. My first thought was, ‘Shit. How much grandparent-birthday money do I have?’ Spoiler alert: it wasn’t much.

“Now I take saving money more seriously to prepare for inconveniences (and trust me, they come frequently when you’re a homeowner). It’s important for me to have a savings account, because nothing is more stressful than panicking over whether or not you can pay for things you need, especially when you’re adulting! I’d rather kayak through my kitchen than call my parents for money.

“My fund isn’t as high as I would like for it to be, but I put a little back from each paycheck and that helps me to feel a little better about this first-time homeowner thing.” —Darby, Operations Team Lead, 24

8. “I first started saving in my emergency fund about a year ago when I started working for Dillard’s and had my first ‘stable’ adult job. Every week, $10 is drafted from my check into a savings account through Dillard’s federal credit union. I haven’t touched the fund since it’s started and it’s around $400-500 now.

“I also do the same thing through my regular bank account; $10 goes from my checking into savings every week. Right now there’s probably a whopping $30 in it! I use it for extra expenses that come up throughout the week after bills are paid. I haven’t invested my money into a 401k quite yet, but that’s next on my financial to-do list. Just by starting out small, I feel like I’m doing at least something to think about my family’s future.” —Katie, Clinical Consultant, 24

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  • This was really interesting, I always wonder about this due to how much building an emergency fund is emphasized as a basic tenet of personal finance and the reality of the challenge when you’re young, incurring a lot of out-of-the-blue expenses and not always making a ton of money, which makes it hard to save up 6-12 months of living expenses.

    I’d be super interested to see something like this but with how much 20-somethings have in their 401Ks.

    • LOVE that idea. I’ll share it with my co-editor at Earn Spend Live!

  • jdub

    Ugh. I have only been able to really get my financial shit together, finally, over the course of this year. Building up a savings account is next on the list… I’ve always just automatically transferred $100 per paycheque, but that’s substantial enough for me that when I need money, I just transfer it back. $10 every paycheque is more reasonable, I’ll try the slow build instead!

  • Shannon Miller

    I’m way too paranoid about stuff so I’m proud to say at 27, I hit $100,000 in my EFund.

    • Violaine

      You said too much, you need to tell us how you did it!! 😉

      • Shannon Miller

        Hustle, hustle, hustle! I was underemployed for most of that time, but made up for my bleh 9-5 pay by babysitting, catering jobs, and other side stuff as much as I could! Then got a better paying job and continued with my same standard of living. It also helps that my expenses are very minimal. Going to a public in state school and worked for housing kept my loans manageable. And the major caveat to saving so much- living at home! Was actually thinking of pitching my story to Chelsea and Lauren!

        • Holly Trantham

          Shannon, I’d love to read a piece on this!

        • Violaine

          You totally should!!! I could never save as much because I couldn’t live with my parents who live too far, but I would love to read your other tips like on how you spend your money and how you side-hustle! I am fascinated by young people who manage to save a lot!

    • Holly Trantham

      Wow!!

  • Andrea

    If you’re having trouble with not dipping into your emergency savings for non-emergencies, I hiiiighly recommend setting up an online-only savings account. I was so bad about transferring money from my savings for dumb shit like paying a bar tab (the one time the mobile banking app’s convenience is a bad thing). But since I closed the savings account I had with the same bank I have my checking, I’ve saved over $2,000 in 6 months! I use Capital One and each transfer takes a full business day to go through, so even if I wanted to use that money for shopping or whatever, I have a full day to think if I’m being a dumbass or not. It’s the easiest and best financial decision I’ve ever made!

    • SUCH a good tip. I think I’m going to have to try that.

    • Robyn

      Yes! I actually have all my savings at a completely separate bank with no debit card or credit card attached to the accounts I have there. I have to go to a teller if I ever need to take money from it (or I guess i could send myself an internet etranfser from one bank to the other, but that is work & money). It really helps me not touch that money unless it’s an emergency.

    • sforsaraho

      The one caveat is that sometimes when you need the money in an emergency, there is no time to wait for it to go through! I did the same things with my emergency fund to keep it away from my wandering eyes, but then was forced to use a credit card when I had a very sick dog and no time to get to the bank. I agree though that keeping it as far out of reach as possible is good though, and maybe if you have a buffer in your day to day account it wouldn’t be a bad idea. I’ve got mine now in a separate checking account from my everyday spending with a debit card that says EMERGENCY FUND! on it in big red letters. If anything else I think the embarrassment of handing it over to buy a six pack or new shirt will hopefully deter me enough!

    • Stephanie

      Agreed! This is such a great tip, but for two reasons: 1) limiting transfers for non-emergencies, 2) taking advantage of higher interest rates. I moved 90% of my cash savings to an online bank that has an interest rate of 1.05%. I’ve earned $80 just from interest since January. Transferring funds takes about 3-4 days, so I have a savings account at my main bank that I can access instantly, if needed. I keep $2,000 in this account at all times.

      I use my credit card for everything in order to accumulate travel points. So when I’m dealing with an emergency, I swipe my card and immediately transfer the funds to pay the statement. I don’t view my credit limit as part of my EF.

  • alyjarrett

    I was laid off from a job last year, so I learned just how important emergency funds are, and I was so thankful that I had one. I’ve spent my time since building it back up, and now I have $12,000 with a plan to reach $15,000 by the end of the year. I often recommend YNAB (not sponsored, just a fan!), because its “Age of Money” feature tells you theoretically how long your money will last you. I say theoretically, because my EF will last me much longer than the 80 days it claims, but it’s an interesting baseline that motivates me to save even more!

  • Jack

    I’m 29 and I have about 1200 in my emergency fund. Ideally I’d like it to be 10,000 but to be honest, I’m not willing to sacrifice saving for trips in order to get to that amount. A huge step I just made though is to transfer my RRSP and TFSA (which is my EF) over to a separate bank with a financial advisor, so if I want that money, I have to email him to get it. No way am I going to ask for $50 because I bought a dress I didn’t need. I think this is going to help me with saving in the long term because I won’t see thousands sitting there every time I log into my Tangerine account.

    • Summer

      That is a good idea. I’m 31 and my EF has about $3800 right now, which is way less than I’m comfortable with, but like you, I’m just not willing to compromise travel opportunities. I’m also paying on student loans which eats heavily into my budget, and my income fluctuates so it’s difficult to set a hard budget in the first place. I do like the notion of keeping savings in an account that is difficult to transfer from, because I for sure transfer money back to my checking account if I need to in order to avoid paying interest on my credit card or whatever the case may be. I’m definitely for dipping into savings to avoid carrying a credit card balance, but maybe if it weren’t so accessible I’d be better at finding other ways to deal with that scenario.

  • I’m 30 and have exactly $2,100 in my emergency fund. I am in the process of building a multiple family home abroad that costs about $80,000 (no mortgage) and I’ve paid about $55,000 of that amount. It’s a little uncomfortable now to not have much in my emergency fund but since I don’t have kids yet I figured this is the best time to make the sacrifice. I’m expecting good returns once I complete the project next year and that will go towards funding yet another investment. Until then, I will have to cover anything that comes up with my credit card. I made sure to select the lowest deductible/copay health insurance at work and I have a new car that’s still under warranty so fingers crossed.

  • Mary Harman

    This is so interesting!

    I have always struggled to define EF vs. general savings. My husband and I have several accounts between here in the US and in England, and none of them is designated as anything, really. I would estimate that, for us, $6,000-7,000 would cover us for 3-6 months if we both go laid off at once. But the rest of our savings doesn’t really have any purpose or name assigned to it. We’re somewhat aggressively saving—possibly a leftover habit from when I paid off about $25k in school loans in 18 months.

    All that to say, our EF is defined only in knowing what that number for us is. Do other people usually have it tucked away or in a separate account, or am I not alone in this imaginary Emergency Fund line?

    • Pearl

      I have an emergency fund account and a general savings account. Both accounts could be liquidated easily if something came up, so it isn’t far from reach. It’s helpful for me to have the money separated, because I’m hoping to never touch our Emergency Fund money. That stays the same, but my savings account grows.

  • Sara

    It’s stressful to think about this because my husband and I are both in grad school – I receive a stipend to support the both of us but that’s the only income we are going to have at least through 2018. I know that eventually our incomes will be much higher so we can be more aggressive about our savings goals, but as two people in our late twenties it’s hard not to feel like we’re missing the adult train because we can’t buy a home, save money for retirement, etc.

  • ErinKwed

    I would be really interested to hear how people approach their emergency funds. I actually have two: one for unexpected expenses (like when my cat needing a tooth out) that stays around $1500 and one for capital-E emergencies (like if I lost my job) that is more substantial.

  • I’m 30 and I have $40,000 in my savings account, which I started at 21 with $72 I won at slots 😉 It used to be an emergency fund, then morphed into a maybe I should buy a condo fund, and is now my moving to France fund with an emergency cushion built in. I also have $5,500 in an IRA which I need to put to work. I have no student debt, which is a huge part of it, but the real reason I’m able to save so much is my freelance gig, where I run financial investigations. I know TFD has highlighted this before, but I can’t emphasize enough how big of a boost this has been – you can only squeeze your expenses by so much, but if you have the opportunity to earn more, always take it.

    I’ve cut a lot of expenses, but like others in this thread, I refuse to cut down on travel, which is a category where I probably spend $7,000 / year, if not more. My focus right now is streamlining everything – my money, my closet, all the crap I own – while keeping a solid amount of travel in the mix, so I budget it in as a necessary line item.

    I will say that these types of posts, even if interesting, can sometimes backfire – for me, comparing myself to others leads to FOMO, which makes me feel like I’m not doing enough of X or getting enough of Y, and that breeds anxiety, stress and an ultimate lapse in productivity. Everyone should just try to do their best, and the rest should follow organically.

  • Michelle

    I had about $14K when I was laid off back in April, now I’m down to $7K but I didn’t have to worry about nada when I was un-employed and even took a super awesome road trip across America (not cheap, but not as expensive as I thought).
    Before being laid off, my goal was to have $20K but obviously that took a huge dent. But imagine my relief when I got home from being laid off and with unemployment payments and severance I realized I could live almost a year off my savings. I did not factor in unemployment payments & severance when I decided I was going to start saving so that brought my stress down to almost zero. I thoroughly enjoyed unemployment and was sad to go back to work 2 months later but ended up at a better job anyways so it all worked out.
    So save people!!! Bad stuff does happen but you don’t have to be unprepared or suffer when “life” happens 🙂

  • AJMoneyMatters

    I’m 25 and have $11,000 in my emergency fund. It’s fascinating to see how everyone’s emergency fund differs. I didn’t realize the necessity for such a fund though until I was 21-22. I wish I knew to start one when I first started working in my teens, even if it was just a tiny bit each week out of my paycheck.

  • Louise Gleeson

    Would LOVE to see this type of article but for people in their 30’s, those with both a good size EF and those without. As someone in my 30s who is finally starting to get my financial stuff in order and still has yet to really set up an EF would be beneficial for me to see other peoples situations, possibly feel not so alone in my current position.

    • Holly Trantham

      Great idea, Louise!

    • Kirsten

      Agree with this one. My husband and I are both in our early 30s, but spent the better part of the last decade in graduate school. We saved during that time, but have had that savings wiped out repeatedly with things like car breakdowns, home repair, and medical bills. Luckily we are homeowners, so we have some equity there, and we’ve never had to go into serious debt to pay our bills, but our emergency fund routinely hovers only in the hundreds of dollars…

  • katekins

    My husband and I (28 & 27) currently have 10k in our Emergency Savings. Though in 2017 we’ve had a couple of things that would probably count as “emergencies” but so far we’ve been able to cover them without taking out of emergency money. Our emergency fund is split between a bank account (easy access), a low-risk investment account (slightly harder to access), and a CD (hardest to access of the three).