Money

Looks like the world could end? Start saving

President Donald Trump speaks during a Make America Great Again Rally at Big Sandy Superstore Arena in Huntington, West Virginia, August 3, 2017.
Saul Loeb | AFP | Getty Images
President Donald Trump speaks during a Make America Great Again Rally at Big Sandy Superstore Arena in Huntington, West Virginia, August 3, 2017.

With rising health care costs, economic uncertainty and escalating rhetoric, as well as rising tensions, between the United States and North Korea, now is an excellent time to start or continue saving for an emergency.

Having an emergency fund could be essential in the case of job loss or an unexpected crisis, whether personal or political.

Make yourself secure

"It's not just about the economy," Suze Orman, financial expert and former CNBC host, said at a June 12 eMerge Americas conference in Miami. "What if you get sick? What if you're hit by a car? What if something happens crazy in this world?"

"We live in the craziest world I've ever seen in my life right now, and the only way you can take craziness out is for you to make yourself secure."

Suze Orman speaking at the eMerge Americas conference in Miami on June 12, 2017.
David A. Grogan | CNBC
Suze Orman speaking at the eMerge Americas conference in Miami on June 12, 2017.

However, many Americans aren't textbook financially secure. A 2016 GOBankingRates survey pegs 69 percent as having less than $1,000 in total savings and 34 percent as having no savings at all.

That's a far cry from what experts suggest you should have saved. To cover necessary expenses such as food and housing, LearnVest sets a goal of three, six or nine months of savings. Orman suggests saving even more.

"You need as much money in the bank that makes you feel secure," she says. It could take eight to 12 months of savings to cover unexpected expenses or extended unemployment.

Here's how to save

Putting away small amounts of money on a regular basis, as opposed to large amounts sporadically, can help build an emergency fund over time, according to a Vanguard emergency savings guide. Try automating your savings so that money transfers over directly from your paycheck, and then increasing the amount of those transfers gradually over time.

"This should happen before you accelerate any other financial goals, like paying more than the minimum owed on your credit cards, fast-tracking your student loan repayment or saving for the down payment on your future dream home," suggests LearnVest.

Self-made millionaire David Bach agrees: His famous advice is that you pay yourself first. Save one hour's worth of income each day, he says.

Self-made millionaire and bestselling author David Bach
Courtesy of David Bach
Self-made millionaire and bestselling author David Bach

"If you're not saving that much of your income right now, you are working too much for others and not enough for yourself."

You don't have to get distracted by suggestions that youbuy gold or Bitcoin. Likewise, placing your money in mutual funds, stocks or other vehicles intended to be long-term investments could lead to loss of value if you need to withdraw quickly.

Instead, the money you save should, ideally, go into a safe, interest-earning bank account that can be accessed without triggering taxes or penalties, Wells Fargo says.

Millennials are better savers than you may think

While Americans as a whole say they don't have much money in savings, new Bankrate data shows millennials aren't that bad off. Seventy-two percent say they have at least some money saved, as opposed to 64 percent of baby boomers.

Overall, "Americans are working on improving their financial habits," reports CNBC Make It's Ester Bloom. "Most Americans now have emergency savings. Thirty-one percent have enough to cover six months' of living expenses — up from 22 percent in 2015 and 28 percent last year — which is the highest that rate has been in seven years.

"And 68 percent now have at least something saved."

Experts from across the aisle would probably agree that, especially now, an emergency savings plan is a wise investment.

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