An electric fence for investing

Back to Money advice
8 October 2018
"Prepare for eventualities since things can change in a second. You need to have back-up plans just in case.” – Muthoni Ndonga


Life tends to happen without warning. It’s lovely to dream about the great lives we could lead once our savings start to pay dividends (if you’ll pardon the pun). Happily, saving is not all about delayed gratification.

Sometimes saving is the only thing between the beautiful life you’re already living and a slightly worse, more stressful version. Saving is also the electric fence that protects investments.

Price of entry

No one relishes the idea of slow, steady wealth creation.

As much as we know we can only do what our income allows, we dream of a single investment that will change our lives overnight. We think we haven’t done it yet because we haven’t found the right investment.

The reality is far more boring. We can accumulate wealth only as fast as we can earn money. For most mere mortals, that means a salary.

You might be wondering if you’re ready to take the leap and buy your first investment. There’s an easy way to check: the emergency fund.

What is it?

To the naked eye, an emergency fund just looks like a savings account with a big cash balance. Us in the know can recognise it as the one thing that will come through for us when we need it most, time and again.

Family will fail us, partners will come and go, but the emergency fund will be there every time.

This completely down-to-earth, honest-to-Bob bank account is the first step towards becoming a true investor. That it doesn’t involve any investing is curious, sure, but not insurmountable.

Don’t let the fact that you’ve had the answer to investing in your grasp since childhood put you off. Sometimes magic happens in unexpected places.

Why do I need it?

The emergency fund has a dual purpose. At face value, it bails you out when you need it. Real emergencies cost money.

When you have an emergency and cash to deal with it, you can forget about the money and focus on the emergency. When you have an emergency and no money, you have panic and debt. Neither of these things make your life easier.

The emergency fund is also there to protect your investments. Think of it as an electric fence around your hard-working assets.

As we explain in this article, investing needs time to work. The price of an asset, whether it’s a share of a business or your own operation, depends on many factors beyond your control.

If you have investments and no emergency fund, you’ll have to sell assets to deal with your emergency. If the timing is off, you might have to sell at a loss. This is literally the opposite of what you’re going for.

Fine, how much should be in it?

If you are employed full-time, you need three month’s worth of lifestyle expenses. If you happen to lose your job, you can look for another one without going into debt for three months.

Note that you work on expenses, not income. Hopefully there’s a big difference between the two. 

If you’re a contract worker or part-time employee, you need more fat in your budget. Your emergency fund should cover all your expenses for at least six months. You’ll probably use this fund to cover a shortfall in lean months, which is why you need more than a full-time employee.

Having enough money to get through a rough patch means you are ready to start investing. Your investments will have an electric fence against life.

This is boring

Yes, it is. Cash in an emergency account  isn’t the sexy Future You on a boat. However, it’s going to get you closer to that person a lot quicker. No false starts for you, my friend.



Disclaimer: We may provide links to other organisation websites. While we take reasonable care to provide links only to reputable websites, we have no control over the content of and on such other websites and we cannot accept responsibility or liability for the information provided on them. You acknowledge and understand that we have not authorised or endorsed the owners or administrators of such other website or their business or security practices and operations. Links to third party websites are provided only for your convenience and you remain solely responsible for complying with the terms and conditions applicable to such third party websites.
This article does not constitute financial advice as it does not take into account one’s personal financial circumstances. Please contact OUTvest before implementing any financial plan or advice to ensure that you make an informed decision. 
Latest Money advice articles
Become an Investor in 4 Easy Steps
OUTvest Market Commentary - June 2022
OUTvest Market Commentary - May 2022