What would you do?
If you got the call today that your dad or mom just had a heart attack, what would you do? Would you head home right away? Could you?
When I got this call, my heart thumped hard in my chest as I ran out the door. My father was in the ER with chest pains. I was less than 10 miles away. The day was spent with dad in test after test as I organized what he needed and called my siblings with the updates.
Days later he was released after hours of long heart surgery.
If I got the same call today I’m a $2000 ticket and 24 hours of flight travel away. And that begs the question; How much of an emergency fund does a military family need?
Part of the confusion
Being a military family nothing is simple black and white. What worked for one family may not work for another.
And a big “it depends” is “how much of an emergency fund do we need?”. Some people give the blanket $1,000 for everyone with any debt, others jump to 6 months of living expenses.
Let’s make it simple
As a military family you have a great start, you know you are getting a pay check next month 99.99% of the time (barring the federal budget fiasco again!).
Figuring out how much of an emergency fund you need is just as simple… how much would it cost you and your family to get “home” tomorrow?
Doing the math (sorry!)
Travel: Do you need to fly home, or can you drive? If you have to fly go to Kayak.com and find out how much it will be to go tomorrow.
Why tomorrow? Because if it was a real emergency you wouldn’t wait a week for a better fair to plan ahead a month. You would want to be able to leave ASAP.
Food and Lodging: Does your family have room for you and your kids or will you need a hotel? Let’s say you had to stay a week.
Other costs: do you have a pet you will have to board or if only one parent would fly home, do you need to cover the cost of more child care? What else would you have to cover if the whole family (or one parent) left for a week?
Your emergency fund!
Now you have a clear idea of what you need to save in case there is an emergency. Maybe it’s $500 for the family, or maybe it’s $5,000 for just one parent to go home.
The best part is that this amount for you makes sense in your general life needs. If you are close enough to family that you only need $500 for a week to take care of a loved one, you most likely have the support and help if you needed it (like extra child care, a toilet overflowing or borrowing a carpet cleaner).
If you need $5,000 to go home for a week then you are probably far from home. If your transmission blows, a child breaks their arm or girls’ night happens on short notice, you will need a larger fund to cover extra child care.
How much of an emergency fund does a military family need?
Every family needs an emergency fund for the “what if’s” in life. Depending on how far you are from your family will mean a larger or smaller fund need. By figuring out how much it would cost to go home in an emergency you can better gauge how much you will need to save.
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