The need for emergency savings

Americans spend more--save less

Unexpected expenses are not only bitter disappointments, but they can cause a painful realization if people do not have funds set aside to cover the expenses. Proverbs 22:7 says: "The rich rules over the poor and the borrower becomes the lender's slave."

Even if emergency savings have been set aside, there is little escape from personal or family difficulties resulting from financial emergencies. But when there are crises or unexpected emergencies, much frustration can be avoided if an emergency savings account has been established to help absorb the ordeal of the crisis.

The Commerce Department recently (2002) announced that beginning in 1998 personal savings has averaged a negative 1.5 percent. It is the first time since 1929-1934 that there has been five consecutive years where personal savings has been negative.

Many financial experts feel that this lose of savings is primarily due to the fact that from 1990 to 2000 personal tax liability soared 58 percent and personal spending rose 45 percent.

In the past, when tax rates rose, spending decreased. However, between 1990 and 2000, as taxes increased, spending did not decrease; instead, savings declined. So, in essence, between 1990 and 2000 Americans increased their spending by cashing out savings. In other words, currently, Americans are spending more than they are earning.

Savings is a must

Every family should allocate a percentage of its income to savings.

Savings allows families to purchase with cash and shop for the best buys, irrespective of the store.

Without savings, if there were an emergency, families would have to rely on credit and, ultimately, end up deeper in debt. Simply put, without an emergency savings borrowing would be a foregone conclusion, the use of credit would become a lifelong necessity, and debt a way of life.

Everyone in our society living above the poverty level probably has the capability to save money, yet many fail to do so because they believe that the amount they can save is so small it is meaningless. However, no amount is insignificant. Even $5 per month will add up.

Families should work toward setting aside an amount equal to three to six months salary for emergency savings for those who have a steady income; and for those who have a fluctuating or seasonal income, six months salary is best.

This does not mean that large amounts of money should be saved while failing to pay creditors, but a good habit to develop is to save a small amount on a regular basis.

This type of savings is not long-range savings for college or retirement; it is non-allocated short-term savings that is designed to help compensate for unexpected emergencies.

About 5 percent of Net Spendable Income should be put aside in an emergency reserve savings, to take care of expenses that cannot be anticipated.

Saving or hoarding?

Unfortunately, in today's Christian society many teach that to have a savings account is actually hoarding, because it negates reliance upon God's provision.

However, this teaching is contrary to the Word of God as presented in the parable of the ant in Proverbs 6:6-8; "Go to the ant, O sluggard, observe her ways and be wise, which, having no chief, officer or ruler, prepares her food in the summer and gathers her provision in the harvest." Within their colony, ants have calculated almost exactly what they will need to get through the winter. They gather and store that amount in their anthill during the summer and autumn.

Saving is looking forward to a future need and putting aside whatever is necessary to meet that future need so that borrowing will not be necessary.

Hoarding is putting money aside for no particular reason and that money will not be used even if it is needed.

The difference between saving and hoarding is attitude, not the amount of money. Saving is good stewardship, a hedge against future needs. Hoarding is a lack of trust.

Each family should make specific guidelines about how much they need to save. Then they must stick to those guidelines and not allow themselves to get caught up in the attitude of the world.

God commands every believer, "Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind" (Romans 12:2). All believers should give evidence of their trust in God through the way they handle their resources.

Conclusion

"There is precious treasure and oil in the dwelling of the wise, but a foolish man swallows it up" (Proverbs 21:20). The common attitude presented in the Bible is to save on a regular basis, and it is important that Christians develop good habits to replace bad habits.

The discipline it takes to do that can be very difficult, but if you manage it emergency funds can give you some freedom to start again when you find yourselves trapped, trying to repair the irreparable.

Every family should allocate something for savings. A savings account can provide funds for emergencies and is a key element in good planning and financial freedom.

Copyright Crown Financial Ministries. Used by permission. All rights reserved. For more information about this and other financial resources, please visit www.crown.org.