I’m 30 and debt-free. Do you think I should stop making contributions to my 401(k) account for a year in order to save up an emergency fund?
Yes, I do. But it shouldn’t take you a year to set aside an emergency fund if you’re debt-free and making decent money at your job. Just make it part of your monthly budget plan, grit your teeth and do it!
I recommend that people put off or stop investing until they are debt-free, except for their home, and have an emergency fund of three to six months of expenses in place. In some cases, depending on how much debt they have, it could take three or four years to do all this. I know it seems like a long time, but it’s really not in the grand scheme of things.
Here’s the way I look at it. If you have no emergency fund, but you’re contributing to your 401(k), there’s a good chance you’ll end up cashing out your 401(k) if a large, unexpected expense comes along. When you cash out a 401(k) early, you get hit with a penalty plus your tax rate. That’s not a good plan!
That’s just one of the reasons I tell people to have an emergency fund in place before they start investing!
*Dave Ramsey is America’s trusted voice on money and business. He has authored five New York Times best-selling books, including More Than Enough. The Dave Ramsey Show is heard by more than 8.5 million listeners each week on more than 550 radio stations. Follow Dave on Twitter at @DaveRamsey and on the web at daveramsey.com.