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When is it okay to use your emergency fund to pay off debt?

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For many people, getting out of debt as quickly as possible is a top priority, especially if you’ve been carrying debt for several years and are crushed by high interest charges. So if you are so close To get rid of your balance once and for all, you might be wondering if it’s a good idea to use savings from an emergency fund to pay off your debt for good.

Why paying off a debt can seem so urgent

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Another advantage when it comes to paying off debt quickly is being able to redirect your money to other goals. Northwestern Mutual 2020 Planning and Progress Study found that 58% of respondents with debt believe that their balance is preventing them from reaching major financial milestones. Of these respondents, 36% have delayed making major purchases, 29% said they have delayed saving for retirement, 18% have delayed buying a home, 8% have delayed having children and 7% delayed marriage.

So being able to finally reach certain financial goals can be a big factor when it comes to aggressively paying off your debt. If you’re spending $500 a month on credit card or loan payments, you can redirect that $500 toward retirement savings, a wedding, or buying a house once you’re debt-free. .

Should you use your emergency fund to pay off your debts?

The short answer is this: it depends on how much debt you have and how much money you have in your emergency fund.

Keep in mind that your an emergency fund exists to cover unforeseen expenses that would otherwise slow you down financially and put you further into debt. So if you had to use a significant portion of your emergency fund to pay off debt, you could significantly reduce your ability to cover a large, unforeseen expense. This is why you need to consider the amount of your debts and the size of your emergency fund.

For example, if you have $10,000 in your emergency fund and a credit card balance of $5,000, paying off the debt would wipe out half of your emergency fund — and that could put you in a predicament. more vulnerable financial position if you don’t have one. other savings. But if you have an emergency fund of $10,000 left and a credit card balance of $500, you may be more likely to use some of your savings while feeling confident in your ability to manage. a significant unforeseen expense.

“If you reimburse these types of [debts] makes you vulnerable to a financial crisis that could potentially hurt your credit, file for personal bankruptcy, or be temporarily or permanently impoverished, so the financial reward of saving interest on debt reduction may not be worth the risk,” says JR Robinson, a personal finance expert at Belief.

And if you decide you could use some of the money in your emergency savings to pay off your debt, don’t forget to take steps to replenish your emergency fund.

Methods to pay off debt faster

There are many strategies you can use to get out of debt a little faster and make the process a little more manageable. If you have several debts with variable interest rates, you can try the debt snowball method to help you make additional payments on debt with the lowest balance first (while only making minimum payments on your other debts). This allows you to pay off a balance much faster, which will also motivate you to keep working on your other balances.

On the other hand, the debt avalanche method targets the debt with the highest interest rate first (while making the minimum payments on your other debts). This helps you save the most on interest charges.

You might also consider using a personal loan to consolidate multiple debts, especially if making payments on multiple balances seems a bit overwhelming. With debt consolidation, you will request a specific amount that is enough to cover the total of all your debts and the lender will send a specific amount to each of your creditors to pay off those debts. Thereafter, you will only be responsible for repaying the personal loan in the form of fixed, equal monthly payments plus interest. Most personal lenders — like LightStream and SoFi — allow you to apply for a debt consolidation loan.

LightStream Personal Loans

  • Annual Percentage Rate (APR)

    2.49% to 19.99%* when you sign up for autopay

  • Purpose of the loan

    Debt consolidation, renovation, car financing, medical expenses, marriage and more

  • Loan amounts

  • terms

  • Credit needed

  • Assembly costs

  • Prepayment penalty

  • Late charge

SoFi Personal Loans

  • Annual Percentage Rate (APR)

    5.74% to 21.28% when you sign up for autopay

  • Purpose of the loan

    Debt consolidation/refinance, home improvement, relocation assistance or medical expenses

  • Loan amounts

  • terms

  • Credit needed

  • Assembly costs

  • Prepayment penalty

  • Late charge

Another effective option can sometimes be to use a 0% APR balance transfer card if high interest rates make it difficult to pay off your credit card debt. Suppose you apply for a credit card like the Citi Simplicity® Card or the U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card: you will be able to transfer the balance of an existing credit card to a new card and pay off as much as you can with an introductory offer at 0% interest.

Citi Simplicity® Card

  • Awards

  • welcome bonus

  • Annual subscription

  • Introduction AVR

    0% for 21 months on balance transfers; 0% for 12 months on purchases

  • Regular APR

    14.74% to 24.74% variable

  • Balance Transfer Fee

    5% of each balance transfer; $5 minimum

  • Foreign transaction fees

  • Credit needed

U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card

On the secure site of US Bank

  • Awards

  • welcome bonus

  • Annual subscription

  • Introduction AVR

    0% for the first 20 billing cycles on balance transfers and purchases*

  • Regular APR

    14.49% – 24.49% (variable)*

  • Balance Transfer Fee

    Either 3% of the amount of each transfer or $5 minimum, whichever is greater

  • Foreign transaction fees

  • Credit needed

Finally, creating a budget can help you pay off debt faster while benefiting your overall financial health.

“By tracking your money and changing your spending habits, you can free up money to pay off debt faster,” says Robinson. “Look for ways to spend less money and also make more money. Where can you save money? Can you cook more and order less? How about a side gig or selling some items you own?”

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Editorial note: Any opinions, analyses, criticisms or recommendations expressed in this article are those of Select’s editorial staff alone and have not been reviewed, endorsed or otherwise endorsed by any third party.