Finding funds in an emergency
If you find yourself facing an emergency for which you are financially under-prepared, the prospect of what to do next might feel overwhelming. Don’t panic. There are things you can do to get through this crisis.
The first step is to restructure your current budget. While some expenses are difficult to change, such as mortgage or automatic loan payments, there are plenty of areas that you can easily adjust to cut back spending and save money.
Drawing from long-term savings, vacation funds, and other savings accounts can help bolster your finances in a pinch. Similarly, if you’re really in a bind, you could consider cashing in on investments. Even if returns might not be as high as you would like, that money could help address your current emergency.
You should only withdraw early from retirement accounts like a 401(k) or IRA if absolutely necessary. Unless you meet certain criteria for an approved hardship, there is a 10% penalty for early withdrawals. Also, draining these accounts can greatly set back your financial security during retirement.
If your current assets just won’t cover it, look for ways to get more. Consider selling valuables that you don’t need. Things like art, jewelry, antiques, and similar items may be hard to part with, but that money can carry you through a rough patch. Online marketplaces make selling valuables easy to do.
If selling won’t make a significant difference, try to increase your income by picking up extra work. Additional part-time or variable-hour work can help you quickly boost your cash flow. You could also ask your employer for an advance on your paycheck to help cover your current expenses, though not all companies will offer this type of benefit.
Remember that you don’t have to face an emergency alone. There are government programs put in place to help protect you and your dependents should you need it. If you’ve been laid off, consider applying for unemployment benefits, or if you’re struggling to provide necessities for you and your family, food assistance programs can make up the difference if you qualify.
When you’re back on your feet, consider taking the time to prepare an emergency fund should you need it again.
Anne Bednar is manager of F&M Trust’s community office in Mechanicsburg.
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