Happy Father’s Day to all the dads, fathers, papas, grandfathers and father-figures in our lives. The world would not be the same without them. Since 1910, the USA has honored the third Sunday in June to remember the “contribution that fathers and father figures make to the lives of their children.” As other countries have adopted this custom, some in August, September or December, the celebrations usually involve gifts and food.
Although the role of the father as being the breadwinner in the family, the one with the full-time job, or the one that leaves to go to work every day is not always the norm – there is still popular public opinion that this is the case. According to the Pew Research Center, in the United States only a quarter of families with children under the age of 18 have a father that is the breadwinner. That means that men are connecting with children in a different way to the 1970s, when almost half of these couples (47%) were in families where only the dad worked.
Do we have more money now than in our father’s generation? Where do my resources go? Father’s Day, like so many events, can often be a time of reflection. Does our habitual nature with finances stem from our father-figures’ habits?
- Spending. Work hard, play hard. For so many of us, the money is a means to an end. After the bills are paid – what makes us and our families happy? Is it the latest gadget or home improvement, the presents for the children, or the holidays and excursions? If your father-figure showed love and excitement spending on summer vacations with ice-creams and beach time, it is likely you will be doing a similar thing.
- Saving. Keep the money for a rainy-day – or for large events. The price of college, weddings, first-homes are skyrocketing. It’s not just a phrase about the good ol’ days – the dollar used to go much further. According to the CPI Calculator in 1910 $100 would buy the same as $2500 would buy today. With unemployment rates high and pay for jobs low, it is pretty difficult to cross the threshold from poverty to middle class, from middle class to rich, and rich to wealthy. Foregoing the restaurants and the international travel for 529 plans and down-payments on homes are options we can provide our children.
- Scaling Back. As we are encouraged to look ahead and plan for retirement and downsize – do we need the large home, the extra vehicles, the tax-rate for the school districts that we are currently in? Some current trends involve the KonMari method in finding joy in our possessions and discarding or rehousing others. Are our loved ones living in different states or countries that we don’t get to connect with because of distance. Perhaps owning a smaller property or finding a space in a favorite location is the best use of the resources now.
As you place yourself in the category that best fits you – and there is no-one that stays stagnant in their mindset – each requires monitoring of your assets to fit the lifestyle that you desire. This takes time and work, but there are tools out there that are designed to simplify your life, and give your family the visibility into your world.
As you reach to contact the father-figures in your world, or are considering a Father’s Day gift to remember – InsureYouKnow.org product offerings may be your answer. It’s a safe place to store all the information in case you need to access it remotely – or from the comforts of your own home. Taking stock of your memories and your current resources with an annual plan.
You’re a responsible person. You’re saving for retirement. You have a 529 plan set up to help pay for your daughter’s college education. Your car is paid off. You have an adequate amount of life insurance. You’re using InsureYouKnow to make sure your loved ones know how to access your important documents and financial information if needed. And you have six months of living expenses set aside in an emergency fund.
Then the unexpected happens: The alternator goes out in your car. It’s going to cost $400 to replace it.
Where do you find the money to pay for it?
If you answered, “My emergency fund,” you may want to take another look at your definition of “emergency.”
Your emergency fund is money you have socked away in case of a major life event, such as a job loss, divorce, or medical issue. This money would be used to cover your day-to-day expenses and bills if needed.
Washington Post columnist Michelle Singletary advocates the use of a separate fund—the “life happens” fund—for those pesky but somewhat predictable expenses that crop up.
“You’ll withdraw money from this fund to pay for unexpected or major expenses that don’t quite fit the dire straits definition,” Singletary wrote. “Car repairs would come out of this account. Start with trying to save $500, ideally increasing to a few thousand.”
Whether you call it the “life happens” fund, the “just in case” fund, or some other term, this fund is for those immediate expenses that aren’t quite catastrophic. These are expenses that result from situations that people often treat as emergencies but that in reality are expected, if irregular, like a broken appliance.
In an ideal world, you’d never touch your emergency fund. You wouldn’t lose your job. You wouldn’t get diagnosed with a major medical condition. You would have a regular, steady income with no major disruptive events in your life. For many people, this is indeed the case. That money sits in an easily accessible savings account where it earns minimal interest but supplies maximum peace of mind.
But even in an ideal world, you’re probably going to tap into your life happens fund fairly regularly. Even the most budget-obsessed person can’t predict every expense that may appear, such as the following:
- A storm blows through, knocking large tree branches onto the roof of your house that have to be sawed apart and hauled away.
- Your dog swallows a tennis ball and needs emergency surgery to remove it.
- Your toddler climbs onto the dishwasher door one too many times and it finally breaks.
- Your aunt dies and you need to fly out for the funeral.
In many of these situations, life is already stressful enough without you needing to scramble to come up with money for the resulting expenses. And you don’t want to tap into your emergency fund because that’s money you never want to touch. The life happens fund is the perfect compromise. Like an emergency fund, it’s kept in a savings account where it’s accessible on a moment’s notice. But unlike an emergency fund, taking money out of it won’t potentially result in your water getting shut off when you suddenly find yourself without an income.
Keep in mind that because you do need to access this fund somewhat regularly, it’s important to replace any money you take out as soon as possible. After all, life happens—and you never know when the next storm is going to pass through town.