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By Jaclyn Felder-Strauss, Full-Time Faculty School of Business Published May 2014
From the coldest winter days in the Midwest and the Northeast to the worst drought in 165 years in California, this winter has brought nothing but surprises. Clearly we could not have perfectly planned for this unusual weather in advance, as the extremes were quite unexpected. Just as we thought it would be the last cold blast of the season, we began to brace for another one. The good news is we can learn from this winter's weather and apply it to our financial lives.
The first thing that we can do is to plan for the extremes when it comes to our finances. Like the extreme cold, we can have years in which we bring in much more or much less income than others. Many people do not have a fixed income stream that can last over several years. Jobs are not as stable as they once were, and many jobs are based on commission and tied to performance. For this, we must take our higher earning years and plan to use it to subsidize those lower earning years. By doing this, we can attempt to have a fixed income amount over a period greater than one year.
We can also work tohoard as much money as possible in advance. Hoarding has a bad reputation, but in the case of finances it could be a great idea. This will allow us to plan for that rainy day and build up an emergency fund in the event our income stream comes to a screeching halt due to job loss. To best estimate the amount of money your emergency fund should contain, calculate monthly expenses and then multiply by 6. This will allow for 6 solid months of cash flow to keep your bills paid and current and provide ample time for a job hunt.
Another concept that can work in our financial favor is to conserve. Just like the residents of California probably wished they had cut back on watering their grass when rain was plentiful, we should cut back on discretionary expenses when our income is plentiful. If you are disciplined in your spending now, the difference can be put into retirement planning result in a significant amount of additional money for retirement. A small monthly change can result in thousands of dollars more for you later on. Look at this expense optimization as investing in yourself and your future.
The three simple words of plan, hoard, and conserve should be kept at top of mind when thinking about financial relevance and your future. When in doubt remind yourself of the temperatures you were feeling in the middle of January or February and remember how planning for that extreme was simply impossible.
Lerner, Michelle. 2012. How Big Should Your Emergency Fund Be? Online at http://www.bankrate.com/finance/savings/how-big-should-emergency-fund-be.aspx (accessed 2014).
Crowe, Aaron. 2013. Why You Need an Emergency Fund in the New Year. Online at http://money.usnews.com/money/personal-finance/articles/2013/12/26/why-you-need-an-emergency-fund-in-the-new-year (accessed March 10, 2014).
Jaclyn Felder-Strauss is a full-time faculty member at Kaplan University. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not represent the view of Kaplan University.
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