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Your Guide to Building an Emergency Fund

Layoffs, pink slips, job losses -- we can't open up the paper today without wondering if we might be next on the unemployment line. All the more reason to save, save, save in an emergency fund. And it's not just job loss we face. Life throws other curve balls like medical problems, accidents and natural disasters that may force us to face the unexpected as well.

So if you've never saved in an emergency fund but plan to in 2009, here are the basics on how much to put in and how to get started. Aim to stash away three to six months of salary in an emergency account, but recognize that what's best for you will vary depending on your situation: Are you married? Do you have kids? Do you own a home? Are you taking care of your parents?

Additionally, keep your savings in a place that's fairly liquid -- the whole point is to be able to access the money in the case of emergency. You'll probably want to choose a savings account for that reason but keep in mind that some of the best deals can be found online. To find and compare different savings account rates go to Bankrate.com and take a look at some of their tables.

And remember whether you're battling job loss, medical bills, or just an unexpected leaky roof -- your emergency fund will serve you well in 2009 so feed it as much as you can.

Jackie DeAngelis is a writer and producer at CNBC. Previously she worked as a financial analyst at Oaktree Capital Mgmt. Jackie earned her J.D. from Rutgers Law School in 2008 and her B.A. in Asian Studies from Cornell University in 2002

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