Is $1,000 for coronavirus emergency aid enough?

Is $1,000 Emergency Fund Enough?

Is $1,000 for coronavirus emergency aid enough?

People tend to latch on to the wisdom of the most prominent experts in any field. In the case of personal finance, the most famous expert is probably Dave Ramsey. One of his key pieces of advice is to save $1,000 in an emergency fund before paying off any high-interest debt.

That’s good advice, but some people end up taking it the wrong way. They assume that $1,000 is the most they need to save, rather than a baseline. For some people, that might be enough – for others, it’s not even close.

The amount you need depends entirely on your personal circumstances. Here are some examples of when $1,000 is adequate, when it falls short, and how to make the best use of what you have.

When $1,000 Is Enough

Many experts recommend saving three months’ worth of expenses in their emergency fund, but not everyone can afford that. For people who have high credit card debt or low incomes, $1,000 might be all they can save without compromising other priorities.

That amount is enough to cover most emergencies, a sudden repair on your car, a trip to urgent care or an emergency vet visit. $1,000 will probably cover the bill in each of those cases, and possibly with some money left over.

When it comes to saving for an emergency, the goal should be to minimize the long-term damage an unexpected expense can inflict on your finances. Even a small emergency fund will save you from the worst-case emergency scenarios – borrowing money from friends or family, taking out a payday loan or pawning off an important possession.

When $1,000 Isn’t Enough

If you have kids, are the sole provider of your family, are self-employed or own a home, $1,000 probably isn’t going to cut it. As anyone with a mortgage knows, the water heater doesn’t care how much you have in your emergency fund when it decides to break.

Self-employed people need more than $1,000 in an emergency fund because their business income can be sporadic and inconsistent. Having an insufficient amount saved can mean taking on jobs that don’t align with your business, or even being forced back into a traditional job to make ends meet.

Similarly, if you work on commission and your salary depends on how many sales you make, $1,000 might be inadequate. Any time you have inconsistent or variable income, you need to try for three to six month’s worth of expenses.

Parents should also try to have a more robust savings account. When you have other people relying on your income, the potential for an emergency expense increases substantially. You don’t want to be stuck choosing between paying a medical bill and putting food on the table.

If you have pets, especially those who are older or have chronic health problems, I’d recommend having at $2000-$3000 in your emergency fund. Some vet offices only accept cash and require payment before performing an operation, so easily-accessible funds are a must.

When I was paying off my student loans, the first thing I did was save up three months worth of expenses in an emergency fund. I was a newspaper reporter and knew that the industry was volatile. Layoffs can happen at any time, and I wanted to be prepared for that possibility.

As much as I wanted to chip away at my loan balance, I knew doing so without a solid financial foundation was just asking for trouble. I didn’t want to borrow money from my parents or take on even more debt if my career took a downturn.

Once I decided to pay off my student loans in three years, I was tempted to put my emergency fund toward that goal. But as appealing as that was, I’m glad I resisted the temptation.

If you’re paying off a lot of debt and still have extenuating circumstances, kids or an unstable job, don’t raid your emergency fund to reach the finish line faster. Reaching your financial goals is climbing a mountain, and an emergency fund is your first aid kit. Sure, you may not need it – but do you really want to take that chance?

How to Stretch Your Emergency Fund

If you only have $1,000 and suffer a significant emergency, job loss or emergency surgery,  there are a few basic strategies you can employ. For those with federal student loans, you can call and put your loans in deferment or forbearance until you get settled.

You can also switch to an income-based repayment plan, which could reduce your payments to $0. If you have private student loans, call the provider and ask what your options are.

Utility companies sometimes provide emergency assistance if you call and ask. Even landlords can be understanding about delaying rent in times of crisis. Make sure to call and ask before you miss a payment. That will show you’re trying to be responsible and considerate.

Where to Store your Emergency Fund

The whole point of an emergency fund is ease of access. Whether you have $500 or $5,000 in your savings, you should keep your emergency fund in the same place.

Most experts recommend using a savings account separate from your checking account. That way you won’t be tempted to spend the money on day-to-day items or splurges. A savings account is liquid enough for easy access during times of need, and is also FDIC-insured so the funds won’t lose any principal. If you shop around, you can find a savings account that offers 2% interest.

Some people hate the idea of letting their emergency fund languish in a savings account, where it might earn a paltry $20 for the whole year, but that’s the price you pay for accessibility and stability. If you invest those funds in the stock market, you could risk losing the money when you need it most.

CDs or bonds are also not the right place for your emergency fund. Most of those require that you keep your money locked up for a certain amount of time. An emergency fund needs to be accessed within a few days without paying extra penalties.

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Is $1,000 for coronavirus emergency aid enough?

Is $1,000 for coronavirus emergency aid enough?

The Trump administration, acknowledging the impact the coronavirus outbreak has had on the economic lives of millions of American workers displaced by shutdowns and cutbacks, offered some hope Tuesday. “We're looking at sending checks to Americans immediately,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said at the White House. “Americans need cash now … and I mean now in the next two weeks.”

Both Mnuchin and President Trump declined to offer just how much Americans might be seeing in the near term, although Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, suggested Monday a figure of $1,000 and that has been well received inside the nation's capital.

Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, arrives before President Donald Trump delivers his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2020. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

While $1,000 is just about the equivalent of one week of pay for the typical American, according to the latest Labor Department data, which shows median weekly earnings of $936 for full-time workers, it is ly not enough for millions of workers who could be work for months.


According to financial software company Intuit, the standard amount recommended in a fully built-out emergency savings account is three to six months of expenses.

So the $1,000 that is being bandied about by the White House and Capitol Hill wouldn't make or break a family with that saved up, but it would help with things the rent and food.

However, the reality is 78 percent of Americans live paycheck to paycheck, according to Forbes, which wouldn't even allow them to have a starting-point financial savings account of $1,000.

When $1,000 isn't enough

Obviously, for families of any size, the $1,000 is a  drop of rain in the ocean — and will go fast.

Self-employed people will find $1,000 could just be a saving grace for a short period because their business income can be sporadic and inconsistent. During this crisis, businesses are shutting down, and paying for contract workers on a per-project will ly stop until those businesses resume full operation.


New York City, along with many other major cities across the country, decided over the weekend to shut down entertainment venues and malls and place restrictions on restaurants.

Many businesses have had to furlough a great number of their workers. Postings for restaurant jobs were down 26 percent last week compared to the same week a year ago, according to data from ZipRecruiter.

Job postings in catering were down 39 percent.


Stretching your $1,000

If you have to cling to $1,000 and suffer a significant emergency — many Americans will during this time — there are a few strategies you can test. For those with federal student loans, you can call and ask for your loans to be deferred. There are also options to move to an income-based repayment plan, which could reduce your payment to $0.

Utility companies sometimes provide emergency assistance if you ask. Landlords can be understanding if you explain your situation during this time of crisis. Make sure to call and ask before you miss a payment.

Accessibility to your $1,000

The entire point of putting $1,000 directly into the hands of American citizens is for it to be easily accessible. You should be able to get to it in need of an emergency.


Many people choose to place money payouts into a savings account so that interest can build upon it, and that could be fine in this case — a standard savings account, not Roth IRA or another type of savings account that could be difficult to access.  It would be wise to ensure that you can access it at any time.

How has it worked in the past?

In 2008, the Obama administration issued checks to stimulate the economy that was in the grips of the great recession. Single individuals received $300–$600 and couples received $600–$1,200.

According to a University of Pennsylvania economic study, two-thirds of the funds were injected into the economy within six months of people receiving the funds.

The study found that spending was “statistically and economically significant.”

Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., is one of three senators proposing a $2,000 stimulus (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Is more than $1,000 possible?

Sens. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., Cory Booker, D-N.J., and Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, drafted a letter to Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

, and minority leader Chuck Schumer, D-NY, calling for immediate $2,000 payments to all adults and children in the US below a certain income threshold.

  Depending on how long the outbreak persists two additional payments of $1,500 and $1,000 could be sent to Americans in the months ahead.



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