If you're trying to get your financial house in order, any number of experts will tell you the same thing: Build up an emergency fund of at least three to six months' worth of living expenses.
But Suze Orman, financial expert and former CNBC television host, thinks otherwise.
"They're idiots," Orman said at the 2017 eMerge Americas conference, answering a question about how much to keep in your emergency fund.
Orman explained that three to six months' worth of expenses isn't enough to feel secure. What if you lose your job and can't find another one for a year? What if you're hit with an out-of-the-blue medical emergency? A million potential scenarios could drain your savings without warning, so it's better to have at least eight to 12 months' worth of living expenses squirreled away.
"You need to know that you are going to be secure," she says.
Orman went on to paint a picture of darker times, reminding the audience of the financial ruin the Great Recession caused just 11 years ago.
"Go back to 2007… You lost your job, you lost everything, you were working on this tech thing and all the startups went down," she says. "Nobody had any money to invest, nobody wanted to touch anything, nobody wanted to IPO because the markets were going down and you couldn't find anything to do. Think it took you just three months to find another job? Think it took you six months to find another job?"
She goes on: "It's not just about the economy. 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 of that if for you to make yourself secure."
The only way to ensure that you'd be truly financially secure in times of crisis is to build a well-padded emergency fund, she says.
"You need as much money in the bank that makes you feel secure," Orman reiterates. "Don't go fooling yourself, 'It's okay, I can charge on a credit card, I can do this.' You should have at least eight months. Not six months, not three months, I'd like to see you have eight months to one year."
If you're not there yet, you're not alone: Only 39 percent of Americans have enough in the bank to be able to cover a $1,000 emergency, according to a recent Bankrate survey.
To get your emergency fund started, consider reworking your budget and trying to find areas where you can dedicate more to saving and investing. You want to start putting money away as early as possible to take advantage of compound interest, in which any interest earned accrues interest on itself. That means a little money invested now can end up being a lot of money invested later.
If you need to make room in your budget, here are a few tips and tricks to help you get started:
- 5 ways to save more money in 2018
- 6 money-saving tips that will make you feel smart
- 5 tips to save more money, from ordinary people who have paid off thousands
This is an updated version of a previously published article.
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