Many of us are not prepared for a financial emergency. In fact, nearly 1 in 4 Americans have bigger credit card bill than emergency fund, according to a new report from Bankrate.com. The survey found that 21 percent of respondents say their credit card debt is larger than the amount they have saved in case of a financial emergency. And 12 percent said they have no credit card debt -- and no emergency fund either.
Overall, American consumers are doing better with their money, the report found, thanks to better wages and lower unemployment.
But there’s clearly still room to improve for a large percentage of Americans who aren’t paying off their credit card debt and have nothing to fall back on if a financial emergency happens.
Carrying credit card debt, of course, is never a good idea. You’ll pay more in interest, which means those lattes, new clothes and groceries that you charged on your card will cost you more in the long run. And, no thanks to the interest that’s building up, it likely will take you longer to pay off your bill.
Having no emergency fund means you could face major hardships if you lose your job, your car breaks down or you or a loved one have a medical emergency. If squirreling away money into an emergency fund sounds daunting, just start slowly.
If you’re ready to get your finances back in balance, here are three things to consider before you decide to focus on your debt or save for a financial emergency
The average Annual Percentage Rate for credit cards is about 16.15 percent, according to CreditCards.com. Low interest cards hover around 13.14 percent. The rate for those with bad credit runs about 23.62 percent. The difference between those rates can make a big impact on your wallet.
At 13 percent, it will take you 23 months to pay off a $2,000 debt with $100 monthly payments. At the end of the 11 months, you’ll have paid about $266 in interest.
But, if your rate is 23.6 percent, you’ll pay more than double that in interest -- or $566 -- by making $100 monthly payments for 26 months.
In other words, if your credit card’s rate is on the higher end, it might make sense to pay off that debt as quickly as possible to avoid paying even more money in interest.
Are your monthly bills a drain on your finances? If you really scrimped and budgeted, could you pay off your credit card debt in six months or a year? If you are keen to quickly lower your monthly payments so you have more money to save for a financial emergency, retirement or other needs, now might be the time to focus on paying off that credit card debt first.
But, if you’re stressed out about not having enough money in your emergency fund, socking money away to cover the surprises that life throws your way may make the most sense. For many, having enough money in an emergency fund provides them with the peace of mind required to get moving on their other financial goals.
Can your employer direct deposit a portion of your paycheck into a savings account so that you don’t have a chance to spend it? Can you clean out your home, selling furnishings, decor and clothing you no longer need? Could you pick up a part-time job? Can you make a list before you go to the grocery store -- and stick to it so your spending doesn’t get off track?
Brainstorm ways you can save the money you’re already earning and add more to your income. When it comes to saving and paying off debt, every little bit really can help.
If you are experiencing financial difficulty and are looking for a solution, non-profit credit counseling can help you make sense of all your options. Contact us today for a free financial assessment with one of our certified credit counselors.
Consumer Education Services, Inc. empowers people to overcome their financial challenges and lead financially-healthy lives.
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