A flat tire. A broken wrist. A faulty dishwasher. When a financial emergency crops up, can you afford the bill?
Maybe not. Although about 60 percent of adults experience a financial emergency each year, according to the National Endowment for Financial Education, most don't have the cash to spare. Forty percent of adults don't have enough in a checking or savings account to handle an unplanned $1,000 expense, according to a 2013 survey from BeyondthePurchase.org. They'd need to borrow the money from friends or family, take out a loan, use a credit card cash advance or employ other strategies to come up with the money.
"When we wake up in the morning, we don't know that we're going to have a flat tire or that the home water heater is going to leak, but we have to be prepared," said Gail Cunningham, a spokeswoman for the National Foundation for Credit Counseling.
Financial advisors typically recommend accumulating an emergency fund of at least six months' worth of living expenses. But a rainy-day fund with $500 is a great start—that's enough to see you through many unexpected expenses, and offers a start toward bigger bills, said Paul Golden, a spokesman for NEFE. It's also a confidence booster in an emergency, lessening the chance you'll panic.
Emergency funds aren't the only strategy to help stem the cost of unexpected expenses. With planning, these four common setbacks may be less financially devastating.
—By CNBC's Kelli B. Grant
Posted 24 Aug. 2014