hand writing plan, long-term, short-term, and contingency

Build financial muscles to manage next emergency

Here’s something we might not want to think about, but probably should: we’re just getting through the coronavirus pandemic, and now the wildfire season is within sight. That means many people’s emergency funds are depleted just when another emergency is possible.

Let’s revisit what good preparedness looks like.

Build Cash

According to the Federal Reserve*, 40 percent of Americans couldn’t come up with $400 cash within 24 hours for any emergency – and that was before the coronavirus pandemic.

Ask yourself: Do I have enough cash reserves to take care of my family, home, land, and animals in an emergency? A good emergency fund has three to six months of expenses.

Respond Intelligently and Positively

Respond intelligently when (not if) the next emergency happens. Do you panic? No. Just like Wyoming kids learn in hunter’s education, the first thing you do when you realize you’re in trouble is sit down and think (the first two steps of STOP: Stop, Think, Observe, Plan). Your mind is the best tool to have in any situation. Begin by avoiding concentrating on things you cannot control. Then, remember your self-talk can help you respond, so be positive and focused on the future.

Create a Plan

Start living on a budget if you aren’t already. A budget is a plan that shows exactly where funds will go. You can’t make the most of every dollar if you don’t know how much money you have.

Build the budget by observing past expenses and income – the O in STOP. Examine your bank and credit card statements going back at least a month so you work with real data. Brainstorm ideas and ways to cut expenses. Income can be grown – everyone has skills to employ or assets to sell. Promptly call lenders and work out a plan for debt payments you’ll have trouble making.

Take Action

Whether the next order is “shelter in place” or “evacuate,” work now to be on stable footing. Being fully financially prepared for a real emergency goes beyond cash reserves and spending plans to take on other aspects – such as collecting important personal, household, and medical information – which is a topic for another article.

More info is available at www.ready.gov/financial-preparedness.

Michelle Vigil is a University of Wyoming Extension community development educator serving northeast Wyoming. She can be reached at (307) 682-7281 or at michelle.pierce@uwyo.edu.

*Source: Report on the Economic Well-Being of U.S. Households in 2018. May 2019.

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