Why Do I Need an Emergency Fund, and How Much Do I Need?

Imagine that your roof starts to leak. Or your car breaks down. Or, worst of all, a pink slip lands on your desk.

The credit cards in your wallet could likely keep you dry, on the road, and well fed, but running up significant debt can cause a major setback to your financial plan. That’s why you always need to have ready access to a chuck of cash—that is, an emergency fund—that allows your financial life to stay on track even if you encounter a significant, unexpected expense.

So how much do you need to stash? A broad guideline is three to six months’ worth of the money that you need for all non-discretionary expenses (such as health insurance, your mortgage and food). That way, you have enough that if you were to lose your job, you’d be able to continue paying your household bills while you looked for another one.

 

That number can differ, though, depending on your individual circumstances. Are you a college professor with tenure? Three months’ worth of savings might be sufficient. The sole breadwinner and working in a business where income can fluctuate from year to year? Aim for nine to 12 months’ worth, minimum. Saving that much may seem daunting, but it’s okay to let the fund build gradually. Just keep putting some amount away every month.

Make sure your emergency cash is stashed in an account that’s separate from your regular checking and savings, so you’re not tempted to tap the money. You also want the funds to be completely safe and liquid—which means an FDIC-insured savings or money market account. If the rate of return on that account is paltry, that’s okay. After all, says Greg McBride senior financial analyst at Bankrate.com, “It’s not an investment—it’s a safety net.”

 

Works Cited: “Why Do I Need an Emergency Fund, and How Much Do I Need?” Time, Time, time.com/money/collection-post/2791948/emergency-fund-how-much-money/.

What Should I Do If I Lost My Smartphone?

The first call you need to make—when you find a phone, that is!—is to your wireless carrier. Report your phone missing and have your service cancelled, which will prevent someone from racking up service charges on your dime and will prevent the thief from gaining access to your online apps or accounts.

But wait, there’s more… For most of us, our phones contain nearly as much personal info as our wallets, so you’ll want to take steps to prevent that information from getting into the wrong hands. The best move is to remotely reset the phone to factory settings. “Wiping it means you don’t need to worry,” says Neal O’Farrell, executive director of The Identity Theft Council. “The phone becomes a brick, and the info on it dies.” The problem is, you have to have already enrolled in a wiping program to do this.

Too late? Do a mental run through of apps and websites you use to see where a thief could gain your personal information. (Go through this exercise even if you wiped your device, in case someone accessed the phone between when you had it and when you had it reset.) Immediately change the passwords of these apps and sites, as well as for any email accounts linked to the phone. “Your email holds the keys to your kingdom,” says Eva Velasquez, president of the Identity Theft Resource Center. Receipts, bank statements or monthly bills in your inbox could include credit card, debit card or bank account numbers. Maybe even your Social Security number is buried somewhere in the email abyss.

Have passwords stored on the phone for financial institutions? (Don’t, in the future.) Call the banks and close the accounts. Then open new accounts with new numbers. Even if you think your log in was iron-clad, keep an eye on your statements to make sure the account isn’t breached.

If you have any credit or debit card numbers saved to your phone—maybe at the check out on a retailer’s website or app—call your card issuer and request a replacement card with a new number. Review your transaction history to make sure there were no fraudulent charges posted.

Going forward, password-protect your phone to add an additional hurdle. (And don’t undo the benefit by choosing a PIN that’s easy to guess like 1234 or the current year.) Install a “phone finder” app, so you can see where your phone is—which can prevent a hassle if it was simply misplaced and can also be useful to the police if you’re the victim of a crime. Most important, find out from your phone’s manufacturer or your wireless carrier how to opt in to a remote wiping program.

 

Works Cited: “What Should I Do If I Lost My Smartphone?” Time, Time, time.com/money/collection-post/2791974/lost-my-smartphone/.

We Now Accept Debit And Credit Cards!

Tired of not having time to come in to make a payment?  Stress no more!  We now accept debit and credit cards as a form of payment in person or over the phone!

How Can I Dispute Errors On My Credit Report?

Find a mistake in your credit report?  You'll want to contact the bureaus, stat.

 

The bureaus are required to investigate - typically within 30 days - and to fix any problems that are discovered.

 

The  credit bureaus all have a form on their website where you can submit a dispute.

For run of the mill problems, such as a paid-off debt appearing as unpaid, submitting the dispute via the web tool will likely suffice.  But if you prefer, you can file a formal letter of dispute via certified mail (you'll find the address on each credit bureau's site).  The Federal Trade Commission has a sample letter on its website that you can follow.  You may also want to contact the creditor - for example, the bank using the loan or credit card - to let them know of the error.

For a more serious issue - say, your name has been mixed up with someone else's - you should definitely file a dispute with both the credit bureau and the creditor(s), as well as the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau (CFPB).  The CFPB will follow up with the bureau to make sure your complaint is resolved.

 

Works Cited: "How Can I Dispute Errors on My Credit Report?" Time, Time,                              time.com/money/collection-post/2791956/how-to-dispute-credit-reports-errors/.

Create A Family Emergency Binder

We've all heard the saying "hope for the best, prepare for the worst" when it comes to emergency preparedness. This preparation should include storing all important documents in a place that's both safe and easily accessible in the event of an emergency. One great idea is to use a binder to keep all of your documents organized.

What Should Be Included In Your Emergency Binder?

• Emergency contacts and numbers

-Family

-Friends

-Doctors

- Work contacts

- School contacts

- Utilities

- Non-emergency numbers

• Copies of Important Documents

- Driver's Licenses/State ID's

-Passports

- Social Security Cards

- Birth Certificates

- Adoption Records

- Marriage License

- Military Records

- Church Records

-Will/Trust/Power of Attorney

- Insurance Cards

-Deeds & Titles

• Financial Information

- Copy of Tax Returns

- List of Bank Accounts

-Credit Card Statements/Information

- Stocks & Bonds

- Certificates of Deposit

- Password Information for Accounts

• Medical Information

- List of Prescriptions

- List of Allergies

- Immunization Records

- Vital Information for each family member

- Medical Release Form

• Cash

• Family Photos

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  1. Identity Theft