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December 10, 2002


Human nature says that the more time you invest in something, the more you'll value it.

I think it's because of that little dictum that I used to be such a routine sufferer of "emergency fund regret."   Meaning that any event which caused me to have to dig into my e-fund would immediately send my mood into the dumper for days at a clip.

We know that building up an e-fund isn't easy.   Unless you have access to Bill Gates' bank accounts, or some prescient foreknowledge of next month's winning Texas Lotto numbers, then you just have to piece your e-fund together over time.   A chunk of change here, a batch of bills there.   You watch it grow.   And grow some more.   It's your financial baby, albeit without the messy Pampers and inquisitive in-laws.

I've since managed to bypass those feelings of regret before they get locked in.   I've done this mostly by reading financial book after financial book after financial book, wherein the good authors stress the importance of having some sort of financial cushion behind you at all times (Dave Ramsey comes to mind as a huge proponent of this).   Also, I make an effort to journal my thoughts (even if it's only a few paragraphs) whenever Life knocks me around.   Doing this usually allows me to reason away any silly mental discouragements that might come up.

I also have a little recitation that I keep nearby, ready to steer my mind straight when The Bad Stuff happens.   It goes like this:

Your e-fund is there for emergencies.   If you've built an e-fund, then that means you've been intelligent enough to plan ahead.   You were bright enough to deduce at least one Basic Human Fact:   If you're alive and breathing, then every so often, emergencies are gonna happen.   Your e-fund means you've done something to help prepare yourself for that random calamity.   For that, you are to be congratulated. You are in an esteemed, responsible group of people.   You are not to be chastised or discouraged or let yourself get down for this.   Those feelings are for the folks who get caught pants-down and on camera, unprepared in the slightest for any emergency whatsoever, and who had not the foresight or motivation to build up their financial defenses beforehand.   The suits at Thick Pillars Bank Visa love those types of folks.   You, on the other hand, they don't much like.   You aren't helpless without them; you don't have to rely on their services; you aren't the gravy on their bottom line.   Which means you are in control.

Somehow those words always get me smiling.   And I can then get to work rebuliding my e-fund, and do it in a much better frame of mind.

I'm also reminded of this daily maxim espoused by Debtors Anonymous:   "Just for today, I will not debt.   Tomorrow?   That is something I cannot control.   But today I can control, and today I will not debt.   Just for today."

And that's the pinpoint of why your e-fund is there, and why having one is so important:   You won't have to take on any new debt − or in really tough spots, at least, not as much debt − to pay for life's little surprises.   You've planned ahead.   You have control.

So be happy:   You had the money to pay for the alternator, or the microwave, or the chunk of backyard fence, or whatever . . . and your emergency fund was there when you needed it.   You done good.   And odds say that your next-door neighbor's son's school's principal's cousin's '94 Mustang is gonna need a starter tomorrow morning and − darn the bad luck − his bank accounts are freshly tapped out to a remaining balance of about $25.87. And he's been late to work twice this month already.   Plus the rent is due.   Plus his girlfriend's birthday is next week.

Who's feeling the no-money blues now?

Michael | December 10, 2002

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