Financial advisors typically advise holding six to twelve months of expenses in a cash emergency fund. This cash reserve, a strong defensive tool, will weather you through life’s challenges. But, this fund can also play a role in a strong offensive strategy. Life also brings opportunities, and if you’re prepared, sufficient savings can allow you to capitalize on the opportunities and be more nimble in unexpected times.
When Might You Exercise this Option?
You might exercise an option for tangible and intangible reasons if the outcome of exercising that decision puts you in a stronger place on the other side. Following are some examples of such moments.
Temporarily Leaving Employment
Perhaps you would like to temporarily leave employment to further your education, and don’t want to juggle full-time employment while doing so. Normally, such a plan would require long-term planning to save enough money to see you through a decrease in income while you pursue your educational goal. However, a sufficient cash reserve allows you to take advantage of an educational opportunity when it arises while scaling back or stepping away from your job. If, when you complete your education, you will have increased earning power, this is a positive financial move.
Caring for an Elderly Parent
Often, a family has time to prepare for an elderly family member’s transition to their adult child’s home, but sometimes the transition is unexpected. A cash reserve allows some flexibility in an otherwise stressful situation. Rather than trying to buy a larger home while the parent sells theirs, for example, the family can take these steps in stages. For example, the child can purchase the larger home, the parent can move in, and then the parent’s home can be sold. While this is not completely financially efficient, it might be more emotionally manageable.
Taking Advantage of an Investment Opportunity
Deploy your cash to create passive sources of income. For example, you might purchase a rental property or invest in a local business. Such investments provide passive income allowing you to continue working. Diversified income sources create a buffer against a job loss. They also provide for a child’s college expenses and supplement retirement needs. Being able to act on this type of opportunity reduces your cash savings in the near term, but strengthens your financial position long term.
Considerations Of Proactive Use of Your Cash Emergency Fund
If you view your cash fund as both an offensive tool and defensive tool, make the following considerations when making a decision:
- How much cash do you need to fund the option? Consider the expenses involved in the decision. If you want to scale back on work hours to pursue education, you’ll use cash for some or all of your living expenses, costs of education, and other incidental costs.
- What other emergencies could occur at this time? Do you have enough to cover those needs? Be sure to consider a realistic worst-case scenario.
- Will making this decision benefit you for the short- and long- term? Will it increase your earning potential? Decrease your stress level? Further your relationships? Allow you time for personal growth? Consider the short- and long- term tangible and intangible benefits.
- Weigh these benefits with the short- and long-term risks before making a decision on whether to exercise an option.
Your finances serve to help you build a fulfilling life. A sufficient cash account allows you to respond proactively during challenging times, and to capitalize on unexpected opportunities. If you don’t have a robust savings account, reevaluate, and start building that emergency fund now.