College Connect: The importance of emergency savings

Posted By David Wilhite

By Marilyn Primovic

Mice destroyed everything in my storage unit last summer. Instead of moving my belongings to my new apartment, I moved them to a dumpster.

I also moved something else: money from my emergency savings account into my checking account to purchase necessary replacements.

Ann Woodyard, assistant professor of financial planning at the University of Georgia, encouraged college students to follow my example and build an emergency savings account for scenarios like mine.

“The first thing that I tell young people to do is to have $1,000 in a savings account,” said Woodyard. “Every time you spend anything out of that, make it a priority to get that balance back up to $1,000.”

UGA student Sydney Roberson, who also owns a photography business, said she saves for emergencies because it gives her peace of mind.

“I have multiple savings accounts, and I have made $1,500 my minimum for all of them,” said Roberson.

She said this technique along with paying off her credit card immediately each month helps relieve her from financial stress.

Woodyard said the financial confidence gained from having emergency savings could reduce the risk of accidents.

“There is some thought that financial stress causes people to have accidents,” she said. “You might be more likely to fall down and crack your elbow if you’re uncertain [about your financial stability].”

A common, yet stressful mistake made by college students is treating their credit card like emergency savings, according to Woodyard.

“Nobody consciously thinks this, but [credit cards] just get treated that way,” said Woodyard. “Psychologically, it makes a big difference where you pull your money from.”

She explained a concept called the matching principle, which suggests it is best to buy something consumed immediately with budgeted monthly income and to use a credit card for things that last longer.

“Put gas on a debit card or use cash because [the gas] will eventually be gone,” said Woodyard.  “You do not want a debt hanging over your head for something that is gone.”

It is better to lose interest from your savings account than to pay high interest rates on a credit card bill, according to Woodyard.

“Waiting to pay off a credit card is a trap, and it is just not worth the added interest costs to avoid paying it off for another month or so,” said Roberson.

Roberson said she makes saving a priority by having her paychecks deposed directly into her savings, which forces her to transfer it to her checking account in order to spend it.

“The extra step takes away the temptation to spend the money before I need it,” said Roberson. “With mobile banking, it’s just too easy to transfer money from one account to the other.”

Roberson encouraged others to try this technique, but she said it is important to check with the bank to see how many transfers are allowed each month.

Having the financial discipline to save for emergencies saved me when mice destroyed everything.

Marilyn Primovic is a student at the University of Georgia.

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