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In Case of an Emergency, Please Fund ...

June 21, 2007
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When you least expect it, you can lose your job, or your car's transmission can fail, or your dog requires surgery.

In the best-case scenario, you may have an emergency fund set aside for unexpected disasters. If you don't, and need to raise money quickly, there are two significant main avenues to pursue, according to the Pennsylvania Institute of Certified Public Accountants:

First, evaluate your options for raising cash, then work with creditors to defer or lower payments until you're back on your feet financially.

Here's some helpful advice:

Sell Assets You Don't Need

Perhaps your circumstances have changed, and you don't really need that second car or the boat that's been sitting in your driveway. By selling assets that you've determined are expendable, you may be able to raise cash without going into debt.

Seek Help From Relatives and Friends

Depending on your circumstances, borrowing from a friend or a relative may make sense. Just be sure to keep the loan professional, and put everything in writing.

You can use a promissory note form, available at office supply stores, to ensure that you and the lender understand the terms of the loan.

Borrow on Cash Value of Your Insurance Policy

If you have a whole life insurance policy that has built up some cash value, you may be able to borrow against it. Because a loan against your policy is a secure loan, the rate is likely to be lower than other borrowing options.

Just remember that the main purpose of life insurance is the death benefit. Your death benefit will be reduced by the amount of the loan plus any unpaid interest if you haven't repaid the full amount of the loan at the time of your death.

Tap Your Home Equity

A home equity loan or home equity line of credit is a good source of emergency funding because the interest rate you pay is generally tax deductible, and is likely to be lower than the rate for credit cards and personal loans.

Just be sure you understand what you're getting into. Since home equity debt is secured by the equity in your home, you're putting your house at risk in the event you can't repay what you borrow.

Use Credit Card Advances With Caution

With a credit card advance, you get immediate cash with no paperwork. However, the interest rate for cash advances is usually higher than the rate for purchases, and there may be a processing fee.

Credit cards are a good alternative when you have a short-term need and are reasonably certain that you can pay back the amount that you borrowed in a month or two.

Think Hard Before You Borrow from a 401(k)

When you need money in an emergency, borrowing from a 401(k) retirement plan is tempting, especially since 401(k)s often represent a large sum of cash. CPAs advise that you borrow from your retirement plan only as a last resort. Not only will you lose the benefit of compounding on the money you withdraw, but you could compromise your long-term financial security if you do not have a strategy to repay the money borrowed from your retirement plan.

What's more, if you leave your company and still have an outstanding balance on a plan loan, you're generally required to repay the loan in full within 60 days. If you don't, and you're under age 591/2, you will be subject to a tax penalty in addition to the tax.

Consult with a CPA

A CPA can help you determine the best way to raise the cash you need and help you develop a plan for creating an emergency fund.

To find a CPA in your area, log on to: www.Ineeda CPA.org.


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