In personal finance circles, one of the most important actions an individuals should take is to build an emergency fund. This is the money set aside for a rainy day. In is good practice to build an emergency fund before you even start to think about investing. Read the below letter from Ernest Buffet – Warren Buffets grandfather – to see how important an emergency fund is to your financial and psychological wellbeing.
Dear Fred & Catherine:
Over a period of a good many years I have known a great many people who at some time or another have suffered in various ways simply because they did not have ready cash. I have known people who have had to sacrifice some of their holdings in order to have money that was necessary at that time.
For a good many years your grandfather kept a certain amount of money where he could put his hands on it in very short notice.
For a number of years I have made it a point to keep a reserve, should some occasion come up where I would need money quickly, without disturbing the money that I have in my business. There have been a couple occasions when I found it very convenient to go to this fund.
Thus, I feel that everyone should have a reserve. I hope it never happens to you, but the chances are that some day you will need money, and need it badly, and with this thought in view, I started a fund by placing $200.00 in an envelope, with your name on it, when you were married. Each year I added something to it, until there is now $1000.00 in the fund.
Ten years have elapsed since you were married, and this fund is now completed.
It is my wish that you place this envelope in your safety deposit box, and keep it for the purpose that it was created for. Should the time come when you need part, I would suggest that you use as little as possible, and replace it as soon as possible.
You might feel that this should be invested and bring you an income. Forget it — the mental satisfaction of having $1000.00 laid away where you can put your hands on it, is worth more than what interest it might bring, especially if you have the investment in something that you could not realize on quickly.
If in after years you feel this has been a good idea, you might repeat it with your own children.
For your information, I might mention that there has never been a Buffett who ever left a very large estate, but there has never been one that did not leave something. They never spent all they made, but always saved part of what they made, and it has all worked out pretty well.
This letter is being written at the expiration of ten years after you were married.
Hopefully the above letter will teach you about the importance of an emergency fund. Please note that it was written in 1939 so the amount you need to sock away will be much more important now. A good rule of thumb is to have between 6-8 month of expenses within your emergency fund.
If you are new to personal finance and just getting started on a life of better finances, have a read of my article tilted ‘ I have £X, what do I do with it – A step by step guide.’