How to keep cool in a financial emergency

How to keep cool in a financial emergency

From the major to the minor, financial emergencies are a part of life.

Whether it’s an unexpected bill, a direct debit you forgot about that’s higher than your bank balance or urgent repairs needed on your car or home, such emergencies can leave you scrambling to cover the costs and plunge your bank account into the red.

Keeping your cool in a financial emergency is all about being prepared.

“The more prepared you are, the less of an emergency it will be,” Fraser Jack, owner of 123 Financial Services, said.

Be prepared

The old-fashioned concept of a jar system is the best way to be prepared for financial emergencies, according to Jack.

“Only instead of a jar, it’s bank accounts,” he said.

His advice is to have separate bank accounts for discretionary spending (lifestyle necessities such as dining out, entertainment, clothes and the like), savings (a high-interest savings account is ideal for this) and another account for fixed bills.

Looking at your previous bills and statements should help you determine a safe amount to keep in your bills bank account. For example, if you get paid weekly, calculate how much your bills cost you on a weekly basis and deposit that amount into the relevant bank account.

Keep in mind, however, that the costs of amenities and bills can go up at any time, so factor in an extra buffer.

“We get caught out on these bills if we don’t pay attention to them,” Jack said.

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Be proactive

If you do find yourself in the midst of a financial emergency, the best response in to be proactive.

“If you are caught out and don’t have the money to pay a bill, my suggestion is don’t bury yourself in the sand,” Jack advised.

“Be proactive and call the person or company you have the bill with to work out a payment plan before the due date, and before they call you.

“Most people will be happy if you are proactive about paying a bill.”

Be extra-safe

If you are likely to forget about upcoming direct debits and worry about getting stuck with not enough funds in your bank account, it may be a good idea to apply for an overdraft facility. Banks provide a handy personal overdraft facility on most transaction accounts to ensure you don’t get caught short.

The amount you can access can vary from $100 to tens of thousands of dollars. While the facility can be free, you will have to pay interest on any amount you draw on so as always, ensure you do your homework.

Like any good contingency plan, avoiding a financial emergency will come down to having a solid plan in place for the ‘just in case’ moments.

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Learn more about savings accounts

How to open a savings account for my child?

Some banks and financial institutions allow parents to open a bank account for their child as soon as it is born, and start depositing funds to go towards the child’s future.

Children’s savings accounts generally don’t have fees, and are structured to help develop positive financial habits by limiting withdrawals, encouraging regular deposits, and earning interest on the savings, similarly to standard savings accounts.

How to make money with a savings account?

Savings accounts make you money by earning interest on your savings. The more money you deposit, the longer you leave it in the account, and the higher the account’s interest rate, the more interest you’ll be paid by the bank or financial institution, and the more your wealth will grow.

To make sure your savings account makes money and doesn’t lose money, it’s important to maintain a large enough minimum balance that the annual interest earned exceeds any annual fees charged on the account.

How much money should I have in my savings account?

A good rule of thumb when working out a minimum balance for your savings account is to make sure that you’ll earn more in annual interest on your savings than what you’ll be charged in annual fees.

If you’re saving with a specific goal in mind, prepare a budget so the interest you earn on your deposits will help you efficiently reach this goal. Online financial calculators may be helpful here.

Can you set up a savings account online?

Yes. Several large and small banks offer online applications for savings accounts, and there are also online-only financial institutions to consider.

Online-only savings accounts are often less expensive than other savings accounts, though they may not offer the same flexibility, features, or face-to-face service as more traditional savings accounts.

What is a savings account?

A savings account is a type of bank account in which you earn interest on the money you deposit. This makes it one of the easiest and safest investment tools.

How does interest work on savings accounts?

The type of interest savings accounts accrues is called compound interest. Compound interest is interest paid on the initial deposit amount, as well as the accumulated interest on money you have. This is different from simple interest where interest is paid at the end of a specified term. Compound interest allows you to earn interest on interest at a higher frequency. 

Example: John deposits $10,000 into a savings account with an interest rate of 5 per cent that he leaves untouched for 10 years. At the end of the first year he will have $10,512 in savings. After ten years, he will have saved $16,470.

What is a good interest rate for a savings account?

A good rule of thumb to keep in mind with savings accounts is to look for a rate that is higher than the CPI inflation rate. This number is constantly changing, so check the Reserve Bank of Australia’s page. If you aren’t earning interest above this then the value of your money will go backwards over time.

Can you direct deposit to a savings account?

Yes. You can make one off payments or set up regular direct deposits into a savings account. This can be organised easily through online banking or by making deposits in a branch. Talk to your lender to find out the easiest way for you to set up direct deposits.

Can I overdraft my savings account?

A lot of savings accounts won’t let you overdraw. Some will allow this feature but you’ll need to apply first. It’s best to read the fine print and check with your lender whether this is a feature they offer. It can be a helpful addition, but as your lender can charge you a fee as well as interest for going into negative numbers, it’s best to avoid overdrafting when possible.

How do I open a savings account?

Opening a savings account is a relatively simple process. If you’ve found an account with a suitable interest rate, you’ll just need to get in contact with your chosen lender via a branch, phone call or hop online to begin the process. 

You may be required to provide:

  • Personal details, including identification (driver’s license, passport etc.)
  • Tax file number
  • Employment details

What is the interest rate on savings accounts?

As banks frequently change their rates, the most accurate way to look at interest rates on savings accounts is to use a savings accounts comparison tool. When you look at the savings rate check what the maximum and minimum rates are. Often banks will offer you a promotional rate for the first few months which is competitive, but then revert back to a base rate which can sometimes be less than inflation. Ongoing bonus rates are often a safer bet as they will keep rewarding you with the maximum rate, provided you meet their criteria

Can you set up direct debits from a savings account?

It’s not usually possible to set up a direct debit from your savings account to cover ongoing expenses or bills, as savings accounts are structured around growing your wealth by earning interest on regular deposits, and discouraging withdrawals.

Some transaction accounts allow you to set up direct debits and also earn interest, though you may not enjoy as much flexibility as a dedicated transaction account, or get as high an interest rate as a dedicated savings account.

How can I get a $4000 loan approved?

While personal loans and medium amount loans don’t offer guaranteed approval, there are steps you can take to help increase the likelihood of your application being approved, including:

  • Fulfilling the eligibility criteria (providing ID, proof of residency, proof of income etc.)
  • Checking your credit history (you can order one free copy of your credit file per year, and make sure that there aren’t any errors that may be bringing down your credit score)
  • Comparing carefully before applying (making multiple loan applications can mean having your credit checked multiple times, which can look bad to some lenders and reduce your chances of being approved by them)

Can you have a joint savings account?

Yes. Joint savings accounts can be useful for two or more people wanting to combine their savings to meet shared financial goals, including spouses, flatmates and business partners.

Some joint savings accounts require all parties to sign before they can access the money. While less convenient, this extra security can help encourage all parties to meet their shared financial goals.

Other joint savings accounts allow any of the account holders to access the money. These accounts can be convenient for financially responsible couples that trust one another implicitly.