One of the best new year's resolutions you can make is to set up a savings account for emergencies. "If you have a situation with a need for cash — a job loss, an unexpected...

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NEW YORK — One of the best new year’s resolutions you can make is to set up a savings account for emergencies.

“If you have a situation with a need for cash — a job loss, an unexpected illness or even having to replace a major appliance in your home — it can throw you off,” said Sophie Beckmann, a financial planner with A.G. Edwards & Sons in St. Louis. “An emergency fund can get you through the rough period.”

Setting up a rainy-day account may seem like a logical thing to do, but a surprisingly large number of consumers haven’t done so.

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In a recent survey conducted for A.G. Edwards, nearly three-quarters of consumers said their top concern was not having enough cash on hand to deal with an emergency, such as a job loss or unexpected home repair.

Yet when asked about their financial holdings, they mentioned retirement accounts and insurance — but not emergency funds.

“There’s a disconnect there,” Beckmann said. “They’re concerned, but not doing much about it.”

Most consumer experts suggest consumers set aside enough cash to cover three to six months of living expenses, including food, housing, clothing and medicine.

The key is to start setting aside some money from every paycheck until you’ve reached your goal.

Ric Edelman, a financial planner in Fairfax, Va., and author of “The Truth About Money,” believes people need to make real lifestyle changes that involve sharp cutbacks in spending to free up money so they can pay off their debts and begin to save.

Greg McBride, senior financial analyst at Bankrate.com in North Palm Beach, Fla., said people shouldn’t be scared by the total they need to set aside for emergencies.

“The important thing is to start saving,” he said. “Any cushion is better than no cushion at all.”

Where should consumers put their money?

All of the experts emphasize that emergency funds should be in safe place and readily available if needed.

That means consumers should consider opening savings accounts such as money-market deposit accounts at their local banks or credit unions.