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Building an Emergency Fund

Many Americans live paycheck to paycheck with no funds available in the event of an emergency. One of your first financial goals should be building a cash reserve, or emergency fund.

Your emergency fund will allow you to tap into your cash reserves instead of paying with credit cards or selling your assets.

How much money to save

Your emergency fund should contain 3 to 6 months of living expenses. Your circumstances will dictate how much cash you need in reserve.

That doesn’t mean 3 to 6 months of your take home pay. It’s enough to cover your expenses — mortgage or rent, debt repayment, food and car payment — for 3 to 6 months.

Where to put your money

Two recommendations about where to put your emergency fund:

  • It should be in an account where it will not lose value
  • It should be easy to access

Regular savings accounts and money market accounts are the best places to keep emergency funds. Whichever account type you choose, be sure it has no maintenance fees. It’s wise to put your emergency funds in an account separate from your everyday savings.

Once your emergency account is fully funded, consider putting a portion of it in a savings certificate that will earn a better rate. Choose a shorter term of deposit, so the funds remain accessible.

When to use it

Once you have cash reserves in place, when is the right time to use them? Examples of an emergency might be:

  • Medical expenses
  • Temporary layoff or transition between jobs
  • Unexpected car or home repairs

Remember, if you have to tap into your emergency fund, repay it as quickly as you can.

If you have any questions or if we can help you in any way, please contact Member Services at (804) 323-6800 or (800) 285-6609.