In the past three months, we’ve had a squirrel infestation in our attic, frozen (and subsequently burst) pipes, and property damage from a storm caused by trees. You could say it’s just bad luck, but I just call it life.
If you are walking around thinking that emergencies are not going to happen to you, you’re wrong. Studies show that about 46% of Americans could not cover a $400 expense and over half of Americans could not come up with $2,000 in 30 days. This is scary stuff.
For us, it started back in October. There was a major storm that came through the our area. We’ve got a couple of very old, large trees in our backyard and a branch from our tree fell on top of our neighbor’s roof and damaged it. While he did not ask us to pay for the damage, he did ask us to get our trees professionally trimmed. There went $600 in the blink of an eye.
Then, just before Thanksgiving, we started hearing a strange noise from our attic. At first we thought maybe we had a mouse, but the noise seemed almost too loud for a mouse to make, and it stayed in our attic, whereas a mouse would be migrating towards the kitchen to get food. After a little research, we decided we had what we thought was one squirrel. Because we have no attic access inside our home, the only way to capture the squirrels was from the roof. Our house is pretty tall and we don’t feel comfortable up on the steep part of our roof, so we called a critter company to come out and take a look. Four weeks and NINE squirrels later, we had finally abdicated the attic of squirrels. Another $800.
Finally, on New Year’s eve, the actual temperature got down to nine degrees below Fahrenheit, with wind chills around twenty-five below. We have had pipes freeze in the past and thought we had taken all of the necessary precautions (open cabinets, dripping sinks, etc.), but alas, we woke up on New Year’s morning with frozen pipes throughout our whole house. A day later, Jake was home when he heard the awful screeching sound followed by running water – our pipes had burst. When the plumber came out, we were informed that because of the location of the pipes on our house (the exterior wall of an attachment without heat), they would continue to freeze until we re-routed the pipes to the interior of the house. This will require us to redo our siding in this along with the plumbing expenses. Estimated cost: $1,000.
So, maybe it has been a stroke of bad luck. But the fact of the matter is that we actually have not had very many problems with our 98 year old house in the almost four years we have lived here. These issues were just time catching up to us all at once.
While all of these sudden emergencies were unfortunate and not fun to deal with, there was not a lot of stress involved. The reason? We have a fully-funded emergency fund. Jake and I keep about four months of lean living expenses in our savings account and do not touch it for any reason that is not an emergency. It is generally recommended that you keep about 3-6 months of expenses in your emergency fund, depending on volatility of jobs, health, etc. Any less than that may not be enough and any more than that would be better used to pay off debt or invest.
Everyone needs an emergency fund. Why? You never know when job loss, medical problems, home maintenance, or any other ordinary emergencies could come up. This money is not an investment. It is insurance. Insurance against going into debt for these types of issues. Insurance against that feeling of panic of how you are going to pay for such an event. The peace that comes with having an emergency fund safely in your bank account is priceless.
Nobody can predict the future, and nobody has a job that is 100% safe. I didn’t know that squirrels sought out attics in order to give birth to babies. But regardless of the facts of the emergency, we were prepared for it. That knowledge gives us a lot of comfort.