I was talking to a financial planner friend of mine the other day, and one of the standardized questions he asks clients and potential clients is if they had to, could they come up with a thousand dollars in one day for an emergency?
My friend told me that a thousand dollars is the standard payment one would need to use in a last-minute emergency. If you car breaks down, if a family member unexpectedly dies and you need to buy a plane ticket, if you need a root canal because you shattered a tooth and you don’t have dental insurance — are all examples of moments when you’re going to need to use a thousand dollars.
To complicate the question even more, my friend told me he requires people to make that thousand dollars happen by accessing only cash. No bank loans or credit cards allowed.
He said 99.9% of the people he meets between the ages of 18 and 31 fail the thousand dollars cash test and that sad fact is terrible and dangerous news for those people and for our economy. If people don’t have access to emergency cash — basic savings for a rainy day — then we are in dire trouble as a nation.
My friend went on to say only a tiny percentage of his new clients pass that cash test no matter what their age. A higher percentage could could up with a thousand dollars by accessing a line of credit but, he says, that only adds to their debt and rarely completely resolves the emergency because additional credit debt creates another, larger, future emergency in a month or two when the credit bill is due.
We live in a credit-centric society where cash is no longer king. We need to not live moment to moment and paycheck to paycheck. We all need to better plan for a cash emergency that will, inevitably, befall us all.