Are You Prepared for an Emergency Expense?

On this edition of Industry Focus, host Michael Douglass and Fool contributor Matt Frankel discuss personal finance. In particular, according to one survey, nearly six in 10 Americans couldn't cover an unexpected $500 expense without emergency fund.

A full transcript follows the video.

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This video was recorded on Oct. 30, 2017.

Michael Douglass: Let's start by talking about emergency savings.

Matt Frankel: Sure. The statistic that really jumps out to me here is almost six out of 10 Americans cannot cover a $500 unexpected expense without either borrowing the money, using a credit card or selling something. Experts generally suggest you have about six months of expenses, and that's a big, big difference there.

Douglass: Yeah. It's interesting to me, because when I think about $500 expenses, that's really not that much. We're talking about a really bad trip to the dentist. We're talking, your car's AC blows out. Actually, when mine did, it cost over $2,000. Let's not talk about that, it was a tough summer. [laughs] But, when you think about it, that's not really that much money, and it really highlights how much Americans are living paycheck-to-paycheck.

Frankel: Yeah. A lot of people just aren't very good at saving money. And of those who are, and I'm guilty of this, a lot of them are not very good at putting it in readily accessible places. For example, I tend to max out my retirement accounts to the detriment of putting some money in a place where I could readily get to it. So, this is one area I could definitely improve on. Maybe that's my 2018 New Year's resolution.

Douglass: Well, that sounds like a very good article to write some time in the relatively near future. I think for me, it's frustrating, almost, because when I think about investing, I want every dollar I have to be working for me in some way. I don't want to except that 0.25% in my savings account or something like that. What I really want to do is invest in the stock market and hopefully get a 7-8% returns. But, that safety cushion basically enables you to take more risk in other areas of your finances because you have that solid foundation ready to protect you.

Frankel: Right. In my case, if I got a flat tire, I would generally put it on a credit card. And if I'm paying 15% interest, that more than offsets the 7-8% returns I'm hoping to get from my investments. We'll get to credit cards in a minute, but this is something that people need to think about when it comes to putting some readily accessible money on the side.

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