A FINANCIAL BUFFER IS A REALLY GOOD IDEA
Why we all need a Plan B account.
“Just make sure you always have enough in your account to afford a flight home.” It was this advice that I kept in mind as my 21-year-old-self packed up two suitcases and flew from Boston, USA to Cologne, Germany. That was over 15 years ago, and what started as a six month European adventure turned into building a settled life in London.
For me it was a flight, but for others, it could be something that can help you get out of a rut. Think of it as your Plan B account.
Having an emergency fund and good financial wellbeing more generally is so important for a number of reasons, from being resilient to unfavourable changes in circumstance to providing us options for change.
Humans tend to be . For the most part, many of us think that if bad things do happen, they’ll happen to someone else – . Optimism isn’t all bad; after all, it helps us get out bed in the morning, work hard and strive for more. But bad surprises will happen. So we shouldn’t let our optimism get in the way of being prepared for when they do.
Not only does this help when the boiler packs up or the car breaks down, but also, and potentially more significantly, having money set aside can help as a start-over fund if you need it.
While we know that money on its own doesn’t bring happiness per se, it sure does bring freedom to make choices. Getting a handle on your finances and improving your financial wellbeing could be a good start from which to make other changes in life.
“Having more financial breathing room can help by freeing up headspace.”
Good financial wellbeing means living beyond just getting by from pay cheque to pay cheque, though that is important as well. Money may feel tight at times, but if ever you have some extra, don’t splurge it on a holiday or ‘treats’ that give you momentary joy. Squirrel some away.
Having spare capacity in your financial life opens up options, from buying the tools needed to turn your woodworking hobby into a business, to paying for the IT course or yoga teacher certification, to funding the psychology degree you always dreamt of doing.
Sometimes a life transition requires spinning multiple plates until you know which one – or combination – will be viable. In these cases, having more financial breathing room can help by freeing up headspace. Maybe it is paying the babysitter for a few extra hours, or getting other help around the house. Maybe it is taking the sting out of jumping in an Uber when feeing time poor.
No doubt, starting afresh is daunting and there may be many other challenges to work through on that journey. But by getting a handle on your financial wellbeing, hopefully the question of money is taken off the table. I didn’t end up needing the emergency flight money, but the peace of mind it brought knowing that it was there if needed made it all worth it. Having a financial buffer can open up options, even if we don’t need or choose not to take them.
Nathalie Spencer is a behavioural scientist and author of Good Money, a Build+Become book from Aurum Press.