Kim was twenty-three, single, on her own, and at a job making $27,000 per year. She had recently started her Total Money Makeover. She was behind on credit cards, not on a budget, and barely making her rent because her spending was out of control. She let her car insurance drop because she “couldn’t afford it.” She did her first budget and two days later was in a car wreck. Since it wasn’t bad, the damage to the other guy’s car was only about $550. As Kim looked at me through panicked tears, that $550 might as well have been $55,000. She hadn’t even started Baby Step One. She was trying to get current, and now she had one more hurdle to clear before she even started. This was a huge emergency. Seven years ago George and Sally were in the same place. They were broke with new babies, and George’s career was sputtering. George and Sally fought and scraped through a Total Money Makeover. Today they are debt-free, even their $85,000 home. They have a $12,000 emergency fund, retirement in Roth IRAs, and even the kids’ college is funded. George has grown personally, his career has blossomed, and he now makes $75,000 per year while Sally stays home with the kids. One day a piece of trash flew out of the back of George’s pickup and hit a car behind him on the interstate. The damage was about $550. I think you can see that George and Sally probably adjusted one month’s budget and paid the repairs, while Kim dealt with her wreck for months. The point is that as you get in better shape, it takes a lot more to rock your world. When the accidents occurred, George’s heart rate didn’t even change, but Kim needed a Valium sandwich to calm down. Those true stories illustrate the fact that as you progress through your Total Money Makeover, the definition of an emergency that is worthy to be covered by the emergency fund changes. As you have better health insurance, disability insurance, more room in your budget, and better cars, you will have fewer things that qualify as emergency-fund emergencies. What used to be a huge, life-altering event will become a mere inconvenience.
Dave Ramsey (The Total Money Makeover: Classic Edition: A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness)