15 Tips for Surviving a Financial Emergency

The 35-day partial government shutdown that kicked off 2019 created a moment of truth for the 800,000 employees and contractors who had to figure out how to cover their bills until their paychecks kicked in again. Many did just fine, thanks to savings and, often, the added safety net of a working spouse. But for others, the sudden interruption in cash flow created a crisis.

The episode was a reminder of how many Americans live paycheck to paycheck. According to the results of a Federal Reserve study released last year, 40% of Americans did not have enough savings to cover a $400 emergency expense.

Plus, debt has made a comeback since 2013 and now exceeds the previous peak reached in 2008, driven in part by a rise in student and auto loans. We’re handling the payments pretty well, thanks to a strong economy with historically low unemployment.

But one day the stock market will cycle into a bear market and the economy will cycle into a recession. That will put pressure on your retirement and other savings, and some unlucky workers will lose their jobs. If you faced a financial crisis—job loss, a catastrophic illness, divorce—how well would you weather the storm?

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