Suze Orman says ‘$400 can make all the difference’ in an emergency yet one third of Americans don’t have that much — here's how to stop a rainy day from becoming a financial disaster

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Suze Orman says that "$400 can make all the difference in an emergency," but a third of Americans don't have that much -- keeping a rainy day from turning into a financial disaster
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We all know that we should save by putting every paycheck aside for a rainy day.
But with the high cost of food, gas, and housing, it's no surprise that many Americans have very little left over from their paychecks to set up a rainy-day fund.
But not having a savings account — even a small one — can mean you have to deal with long-term problems like debt, says personal finance expert Suze Orman.
Orman has experienced this snowball effect repeatedly in her career.
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Orman, who has written several books on personal finance and is the host of the Women & Money podcast, recently sat down with MoneyWise to talk about the importance of emergency saving.
"It's yours and sometimes things happen in life and you should have a little account that's just yours and no one can get ... just to keep you safe and sane."
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WATCH NOW: Suze Orman shares a cautionary tale about what happens when you can't cover your next financial emergency
If you don't save, you're not alone
When it comes to how people in the US deal with financial emergencies, there are some shocking statistics.
According to the Federal Reserve, a third of Americans could not cover a $400 emergency spending in 2021.
And without that small fund, many people will go into debt to cover the costs.
According to Orman, big problems can arise when you need to reach for your credit cards or tap into your 401(k) to cover those unexpected expenses.
It's one of the reasons she co-founded SecureSave, a company that aims to help people build a savings account through their employer, similar to a 401(k).
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WATCH NOW: Complete 30-minute Q&A with SecureSave's Suze Orman and Devin Miller
According to a NY Sports Day poll, one in five Americans has used 401(k)s, or IRAs, to help meet emergency expenses.
Orman says it's "risky" to get into those accounts or transfer those expenses to credit cards, especially when interest rates are rising.
"It's not unlikely that the Fed's interest rate could be very close to 5% next April, which means credit card rates could be well above that," Orman says.
"And even though interest rates on savings accounts are going up, if you don't have money to save, it doesn't matter what they pay you in a savings account."
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The snowball effect in action
Putting emergency expenses on a credit card could mean you end up paying a lot more for it than if you paid for it in cash to begin with — and then the snowball effect hits you.
Orman gives an example of what can happen when something as simple as your car battery dies.
“Now your car has nowhere to go and you have to go to work. And you don't have the money for it."
Orman says a woman she knew got into this predicament, her battery died and her car broke down, and she used Ubers to get around.
"And I said, 'And how much does that cost you?' She said, 'Well, I'll put it on my credit card.'"
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Orman says the woman's car was towed and she had to pay parking tickets before she could get it back. The woman was $1,100 in debt and still didn't have her car back and wasn't working.
"And it's only going to get worse for her. I said, "Why didn't you pay for the tickets when you got the tickets?" She said, "I didn't have any money to pay for the tickets."
What starts out as a fairly harmless problem can quickly become a financial hole that can take years to work out.
Save what you can
With inflation at its highest level in decades, no one disputes how difficult it is to save right now – but it is also necessary.
Experts generally recommend setting aside three to six months for the cost of living.
While that may not be possible for many Americans, Orman says starting small is far better than not saving at all.
"Listen, $10 is better than nothing. $50 is better than $10, $100 is better than $50. Because really, sometimes $200, $400 can make a big difference in your situation.”
She says it's never too late to open a "freedom account."
"Once you start saving and you look at it, it's like, 'Oh my god, I like it. I like it. Not only is it easy, I don't miss it.”
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This article is informational only and should not be construed as advice. It is provided without any guarantee.

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