Break In Case Of Emergency

brokenbankI’ve been receiving a lot of feedback from readers lately in regards to the initiation of an emergency fund, and what an appropriate size might be.  While everyone has different capital needs based on their monthly expenditures and personal circumstances, one fantastic aspect of dividend growth investing is that the dividends themselves can provide a comfortable margin of safety in one’s monthly budget.

I typically don’t carry around a lot of cash. Cash is one of the worst possible investments one can make because it’s guaranteed to lose value over time due to the ravishing effects of inflation. However, I still like to keep at least few grand in my checking account in case an emergency were to befall me or I lose my job. Life is dynamic and ever-changing, and we aren’t all just investors; we’re people with real lives and sometimes liquidity is a welcome friend.

But I also keep one interesting thought in my back pocket: My dividend income now serves as an emergency fund.

I invest in high-quality companies that have histories of not only paying dividends, but also increasing them on a regular and reliable basis. I’ll one day use this dividend income to pay all of my bills, effectively becoming financially independent. But in the meanwhile, this is is real cash that I can use if the need were to arise.

I think of my dividend income as a “break in case of emergency” source of cash. While I currently selectively reinvest 100% of my dividend income, there’s no reason I couldn’t divert this income to my checking account instead and pay bills if I absolutely had to. Now, this is a worst-cast last resort, but the fact that the option is there really takes a lot of weight off my shoulders.

For instance, last month I received $708.83 in dividend income due to my equity positions in a collection of high-quality businesses like McDonald’s Corporation (MCD) and Wells Fargo & Co. (WFC). While this was no accident and rather a result of hard work over the last four years, this income could be used for whatever I want. To think I have to reinvest it back into stocks is simpleminded. I certainly plan to continue reinvesting all of my dividend income, and hope I can continue to do so. However, I also know that there’s no requirement. Dividends don’t care what you do with them; dividends are just another income source.

So $709 goes a long way. Based on my expenses last month, I could have paid for my rent, utilities, fuel, car insurance, internet costs, gym membership, pharmacy spending, and my entertainment costs. Not too bad! It’s refreshing and encouraging to know that if I were to lose my job I could have covered a major chunk of my outlay last month. No need to worry about losing the roof over my head.

I often think about what bills I could cover with my dividend income, because ultimately that’s the aim of my investment strategy: I want to one day be able to cover 100% or more of my monthly expenses via dividend income. And I hope that once I’m able to do so, the spread between dividend income and expenses will only widen over time as the dividends grow faster than the rate of inflation and/or the rate at which I increase my spending.

Due to my dividend income now becoming relatively sizable, I feel like it’s less necessary to have a significant chunk of cash on the balance sheet. I often read of people with tens of thousands of dollars in cash sitting around in case of an emergency, and I wonder to myself if these people have ever heard of dividend growth investing. It strikes me as unnecessary to have twenty thousand dollars in cash sitting idle when you may be receiving thousands of dollars in positive cash flow from high-quality businesses.

Of course, it speaks to the necessity to invest in great businesses that have generally good prospects at continuing to pay and raise dividends for the foreseeable future. It also speaks to the importance of diversification. I’ve personally invested in 46 great businesses because there’s always a chance that one or more may see significant changes in operations at some point the future which would require a dividend cut or elimination. If you’re living off of your dividend income, or relying on it as a sort of an emergency source of cash flow, you want to make sure this income is as secure as it can possibly be.

While I’m not recommending to go off and start spending your dividend income, I encourage you to keep in mind that this is an income source that’s just as flexible as any other income source. It’s due to my desire to retire so young in life as well as to maximize flexibility that I’ve decided to keep 100% of my equity investments housed in a taxable account, and as such all of my dividend income is available for me to tap at any given time. I can’t tell you how fantastic it is to know that thousands of dollars every single year is hitting my brokerage account and I could effectively do whatever I want with it. And while I aim to continue selectively reinvesting 100% of this income for years to come until my expenses are exceeded via dividend income on a regular basis, I also know that if an unforeseen life event were to occur which forced me to use this income for bills I could.

And that’s just one more aspect of dividend growth investing I love: The extra dividend income relieves me of the need to store thousands of dollars in cash for emergencies, which I can then invest in high-quality companies that produce rising dividends. This extra invested cash produces more dividends which further increases my income and security. It’s a wonderful cycle!

Dividends just keep getting better and better, don’t they? 

Full Disclosure: Long MCD, WFC

How about you? Think of your dividends as an emergency store of income?

Thanks for reading.

Photo Credit: anankkml/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Comments

  1. says

    That’s a good way to look at dividend income Jason. Like an emergency fund that replenishes itself every few months. That’s how my investments were before getting married. After 3 layoffs in the last 5 years I keep a healthy supply of cash as well. Typically, I keep 6 months of expenses in short term accounts (like money market or CD). Having a child and one income skews this a little. Actually, my portfolio has taken an odd turn….and I’ve sold all of our bonds……so we’re way overweight cash. Bond yields were so low I thought the risk/reward was cash was better. Time will tell if this is too extreme.
    -Bryan

    • says

      Bryan,

      I can understand the need for a little more cash in your situation. We all have different circumstances, and you’re definitely in a different position in life than I am. While I wasn’t arguing for or against a certain amount of cash, the fact that dividend income acts as a perpetual source of emergency cash flow is pretty attractive, in my view. :)

      And I’m sorry to hear about three layoffs in five years. That’s harsh, bud. My industry is prone to a lot of turnover as well, so I like to have at least a few grand on me at any given time. And thanks to relatively low expenses, a few grand, combined with other income sources, goes a long way.

      Thanks for stopping by!

      Cheers.

      • says

        Good article. The thing is your dividend portfolio is an emergency fund in itself, that can cover over 10 years of expenses right now. While you do want to keep several thousand dollars in your checking account, I do not think that someone in your shoes should have 12 months of expenses saved up.

        • says

          DGI,

          Thanks for stopping by. And thank you once again for your recent article. I sincerely appreciate the support. You’re a trailblazer, and it was because of your hard work over the last few years that I initially started down this investment path.

          And you make a great point in regards to the underlying equity there. The entire portfolio could potentially be liquidated if we’re talking life or death, but I hope to never be in such a situation. Most negative situations would probably allow me to keep the status quo: Not selling stocks. :)

          Best regards!

  2. anne says

    Is there any reason you dont use a ROTH IRA for some of your dividend investments? I always max out my ROTH IRA each year with dividend stocks. The advantage is that you can still reinvest dividends, but when you do decide to withdraw them and use them, after age 59, they are tax free. Even tho qualified dividends are only taxed at 15%, thats 15% Id rather put in my pocket than give to Uncle Sam.

  3. says

    When it comes to our dividend income, I often think about what expenses it will cover in retirement. When we first began, it was $100/month to cover our gas bill. As income increased, I added the electric bill. I’ve determined that all of our utilities, including cable, internet and cell phones, will run approximately $6K per year.

    So, if we can amass $150K and buy div stocks in our Roth accounts and work the total yield up to 4%, then bam!…all utilities covered using tax free income. Somehow, it’s discouraging to watch how slowly dividend income rises at times. OTOH, every time I am able to view another expense as “covered”, it encourages me to keep going. In addition, I view our Roth accounts as emergency funds of sorts. In a real bind, we could pull out every dime we put in without penalty.

    We will have moderate pensions in retirement and should be able to get by just fine on that income. Add in SS for me in about 2 years, and we should definitely be ok. However, before I retire I’m determined to have all utilities and our property taxes covered by dividend income alone. So, when I reach that $8 – $10K annual dividend income mark, it’s hello retirement. It’s a goal that keeps me focused. The bigger the snowball gets, the faster it goes. I’m feeling like my goal is in sight. Just need to keep moving in the right direction.

    • says

      Steve,

      That’s a fantastic way to look at dividend income, and mirrors my own line of thinking. I’m on my way to all expenses being covered, but every expense that I can check off the list puts me one closer to freedom. I can cover quite a few different bills right now, but looking forward to the day when all of them are fully paid for via passive dividend income. What a joyous occasion that will be! :)

      And you’re right about the snowball traveling once it gets fairly large. I definitely have noticed mine pick up speed in the last year or so. It’s a sight to see.

      Best wishes!

  4. Ron says

    Hey DM,

    Great article. I have the same philosophy. Put my cash to work and I use my dividends to pay bills. I do keep an emergency fund with whatever dividends don’t cover.

    I have one other question not related to this. Do you put money in a 401k or IRA?

    Keep up the good work!

    Ron

  5. says

    Certainly a pretty awesome benefit to have additional sources of income. Personally I think along the same lines that you do, have a lean emergency fund and maximize the use of the money elsewhere. However, given the comfort level of the SO, she desires a much, much bigger emergency fund. Since we look at things jointly, we satisfy both our investing/savings desires with a compromise that meets both our needs, thus having an emergency fund that is quite large.

    • says

      W2R,

      Hey, I can’t blame you for your strategy. Happy (soon-to-be) wife, happy life! :)

      And it’s all about compromise. I certainly make concessions in my own situation, although mine are typically tied to spending and going out. My girlfriend tends to chew me up if I’m too hermit-like, and wants us to hit the town more than I (my wallet) necessarily would like. But she keeps me balanced.

      And that brings me to my point: It’s all about balance. Going too extreme is sometimes a bad idea, and certainly nice to have some cash set aside in case something happens. I’m typically comfortable with around $5k or so, but I’m increasing that in the short term here for some additional flexibility.

      Cheers!

  6. says

    Thats a great way of looking at things, Jason. I’ve always maintained just a couple of grand in cash for emergencies and have most of my savings invested. I follow a similar strategy to you. My portfolio is divided into dividend growers, high income stocks and funds, and index funds. If there is an emergency, I would probably liquidate the high income funds to get into a cash position fast as I’d like to hang on to my dividend growers for as long as I want – since I probably wont get those cost-basis prices again.

    best wishes

    • says

      R2R,

      Thanks for stopping by and sharing!

      That sounds like a pretty good plan. I personally keep 3-6 months in cash, depending on a number of factors including how frugally I’m living at any point in time. And I’m with you on not selling the high-quality stuff. I suppose if I HAD TO I could think of a couple holdings I would sell if I needed to raise cash, but I’d rather rely on the cash I have, credit, online income, and dividend income to get me by if the situation were to present itself.

      Best regards.

  7. says

    Like you, I am 100% invested as well. Two years ago or so I actually had an emergency fund, but I decided to invest that money and now I am very glad I did. Inflation would have just eaten away at it. I used that money to buy companies that provide an ever increasing stream of dividends, and those dividends have had the chance to grow over those two years.

    Having said that, my wife and I will have a bit of cash on the side after we pull the trigger. The majority of it will actually exist in a CD and maybe other low-risk investments. The small pure cash pile will simply serve as buffer of sorts in case we encounter unforseen expenses.

    Your appreciation of your portfolio’s capacity to help you in a time of need is infectious. I like to think of it as your own private Citizen’s Income =). Our own dividend income has grown to the point where it can “rival” our monthly contributions, and pretty soon it will form the backbone of our passive income.

    • says

      Spoonman,

      You’re in a great spot, and I’m also glad you decided to put that excess capital to work. Obviously, luck plays a role here as a serious illness or job loss could strike any of us at any time. But that’s the whole point behind investing the capital in the first place: To build a source of passive income that can one day substitute for the day job income and create financial independence. Can’t buy freedom with cash under the mattress. :)

      Cheers!

  8. Sam says

    Hi Jason. First of all, I admire your work. I am happy you share your sucess with others. It helps and motivate all.

    According to your blog you earn around 50 K/Year. What action plan or path you will sugget for some one who earns just 12K/Year and hardly get around? Can such person become FI?

    • Ravi says

      Tough, but possible depending on where you live and other life factors.

      The biggest investment a low earner could probably make at this point would be in themselves(i.e. spending $XX on some degree program or professional training would provide much greater returns than he would ever see in the financial markets).

      A trained and licensed plumber can earn $40k+.

    • says

      Sam,

      Thanks so much! Glad you enjoy the blog. :)

      That’s a great question there. I think someone who’s only earning $12k/year is probably pretty good at living frugally, assuming they have a roof over their head and food in their belly. Assuming income cannot be increased, I would try to figure out a way to live as frugally as humanly possible. Getting by on $500/month is possible – Jacob at Early Retirement Extreme lived on this much for years – so I would figure out a way to lower my housing, food, and transportation as much as possible; getting each one as close to $0 would be imperative. If you can get to that point, and save 50% of your income you’d likely be able to attain FI within 15 years or so.

      Not easy, but possible.

      I hope this helps!

      Best wishes.

  9. says

    Jason, you’re a man on a mission! I love it.

    If they haven’t already, your dividends are reaching that nice critical mass where simply staying alive another 30 days builds wealth. When you adjust for facts such as: (1) you’re still contributing aggressively, and (2) companies like Wells Fargo are set for outsized dividend growth rates in the next few years as payout ratios continue to normalize from the financial crisis, I would bet that you’re going to get there faster than you think.

    • says

      Tim,

      Thanks for stopping by!

      Thanks also for the support. I’m definitely a man on a mission here. I’ve been relentlessly pursuing financial independence via dividend income over the last four years like a Terminator. While that progress may be slowed in the short term as I contemplate some changes in my personal life, I’m looking forward to new challenges and opportunities over the long term.

      And I’m hopeful about the dividend growth with a few holdings. While some are sporting rather high payout ratios, I’m hoping we see some solid growth in the underlying fundamentals of many businesses as the world comes out of a funk. We’ll see how it goes!

      I hope all is well with your own journey. :)

      Best regards.

    • says

      Charles,

      I try to occasionally make a little sense. :)

      I can certainly understand that some people need to have more cash around to feel comfortable, but I simply try to present the case where it isn’t always necessary to have thousands and thousands of dollars sitting idle. Of course, this also depends on one’s expenses. Someone with three children and a $5k monthly nut will need a lot more cash around than I would.

      Take care!

  10. says

    Interesting take. However, you need a sizable portfolio to be able to get your dividend pay in case of an emergency fund. I’ve put all my dividend stocks in registered accounts since my marginal tax rate is 45%. I don’t want to see half of my dividend income being taxed! Even with your number, I would only get $400 per month net of taxes, it wouldn’t be enough to pay for my bills!

    I have two backup plan in case of emergency. I have my websites (which can cover for my bills already) and I have a line of credit. I don’t like to keep a few thousands in my bank account as this money doesn’t generate anything. I rather keep 1K in my bank account and use the rest of my money to pay off debts or invest. Then, if I run into any money problems, I can borrow from my line of credit and reimburse later. The minimum payment on a line of credit is the interest, so it’s a pretty small payment in the meantime!

    • says

      Mike,

      I wasn’t suggesting that one go without an emergency fund, or that a dividend income can provide 100% of emergency cash flow. I was simply pointing out that dividend income could help bridge the gap between income and expenses should one suffer a setback in life. Obviously, the rest of that gap would be covered via cash in an emergency fund, available credit, other income sources, etc.

      And it sounds like you have a pretty good plan. I keep a very similar contingency plan: I have 3-6 months’ expenses in cash, along with around $10k in untapped credit available. Furthermore, there’s the aforementioned dividend income as well as online income.

      Thanks for stopping by!

      Best wishes.

  11. says

    I think in your position it’s perfectly fine to have a couple of thousand in cash and the rest in the KNOWLEDGE that dividends are available to be converted to another cash stream. The reason why it’s possible is because of your extremely low cost of living where, like you said, even $700 in dividends will cover the majority of your expenses. I’m one of the people that you mentioned that has a lot more sitting in an online savings account earning under 1%. My expenses are much higher than yours with the child, mortgage, 2 cars… so I could not sleep at night if I did not have enough cash available to cover us for many income-less months. However, if I did have a dividend portfolio where most of my monthly expenses could be paid with dividends then absolutely, I would reduce the amount of cash sitting in a bank account. Everyone thinking about following your strategy for using dividends as an emergency fund should run the numbers and be comfortable with how much of their expenses it would cover and adjust accordingly.

    • says

      Insourcelife,

      Hey, I hear what you’re saying here. I never argued against having an emergency fund, but rather to keep in mind that dividend income can help in a pinch. Obviously, capital needs vary from person to person as lifestyles and personal circumstances are different. If I spent twice as much as I do now then I’d probably have twice as much cash sitting around. Of course, I’d also be actively trying to figure out how to halve my spending at that point! :)

      Thanks for sharing.

      Cheers.

  12. Trev says

    I hate the fact that I’ve been sitting on mounds of cash for years (fear of losing money in the market). It was a mindset that has lost me thousands of dollars over the years. I even contributed to my ROTH IRA and never invested it for 2 years! (UGH) Keeping cash in the bank is definitely not smart. I’ve gotten over that fear and been slowly adding posistions to my portfolio (up to 25 positions now). I will still keep an emergency fund of 6 months of expenses, mainly because I work off commission, so some months are great, and others not so great. I need to always make sure I can handle expenses in case of some off months. But I would like to thank the investment community, such as yourself and other bloggers, for educating me towards the best route of becoming FI! Keep up the great work and helping to inspire people like me!

    • Ravi says

      I have the opposite problem now. I’ve got just over $100K invested in various products, but around $9K in liquid cash savings. I own a condo that I rent out and have monthly living costs ~$2.5K, so I’m trying to find out how much more would be good to keep around so I don’t worry if I need to sell the condo quickly or go 3-6 months without a tenant that I can still afford the monthly HOA/taxes/etc.

      I think I’d like to have $15K in personal emergency savings, $5K in a reserve for the condo both which I can feel comfortable never touching.

      Then, start building a third savings account for general use (car/travel/whatever).

      I despise the idea of idle cash, but hate the idea of being in a liquidity crunch even more.

      • says

        Ravi,

        Sounds like you’re in a pretty good spot there! You have good problems, my friend! :)

        And I agree with you in regards to liquidity. The last place you’d want to be is in a position where you need liquidity and don’t have access to it. I think dividend income, even in another recession, should remain largely intact and liquid, but it’s never a bad idea to have some cash around just in case.

        I don’t know if I’d ever want $15k in cash, but I also don’t mind a tad more cash than I need. I think it also depends on where you’re at in terms of assets. It’s easier for someone with $500k invested to have $15k lying around then someone who’s just starting out with $10k invested. As a % of assets, I think I’d feel comfortable with 5% in cash – a % which would oscillate depending on available opportunities.

        Best wishes!

    • says

      Trev,

      I’m in the same position as you. I don’t always keep 6 months’ worth of cash lying around, but it does oscillate a bit, as do my expenses. But I’m also paid on commission only, so sometimes my income isn’t as high as I’d like it to be. Luckily, though, I’ve been able to limit my expenses to the point to where even bad months at work still allow me to save quite a healthy portion of my net income.

      Thanks for the support. And thanks for stopping by and commenting!

      Take care.

  13. dave says

    I think the need for an emergency fund is often overblown, the standard suggestion is four to six months—for most Americans that’s a huge amount of cash, if they had that much to spare they wouldn’t be in need of much advice from the ‘experts’. In my own case, my bills are roughly 1200 a month, so six months would amount to 7200 dollars sitting idly in my savings account…srry, that’s just silly, Id rather have it invested…having access to a dividend stream makes the need for a EF much less important as well so congrats to you on that…

    • says

      dave,

      Thanks for your thoughts. I largely agree with you; if most Americans were able to save up $30k or so in cash because they want 6 months’ worth of expenses and they’re spending $5k/month, then they’re probably doing well enough to where they have enough free capital to invest and earn a solid return.

      My thoughts on it are to have enough cash lying around so that you can sleep well at night. If you’re anxious and worried, then it’s probably not worth it. I’ve personally always felt comfortable being almost 100% invested, with just enough cash to get me by for a few months or so. I guess I’m just wired differently than most. :)

      Best wishes.

      • Zol says

        Everyone has their own threshold. For me monthly expenses are around 5k (a very large portion is a house i really shouldn’t have taken on alone… but divorce c’est la vie). I’m also in an industry that while pays very well, based on location might take a while to find a new job. Or even worse necessitate moving. So i have to have enough funds to cover 6 months + a little extra for relocation should a job offer not include it.

        I think Jason’s strategy of cutting costs as much as possible so as not to have that huge expense burden is infinitely better. But we all make mistakes and sometimes it takes a while to unwind the hole we dug ourselves into.

        I think the article is very pertinent on the basis of the fact that A) we have a monthly dividend stream and B) worst case we have the capital as a backstop if the sky falls and you need to sell due to some catastrophic event.

        As the magic money making machine (DGI portfolio) grows slowly but steadily i will definitely consider becoming a little less conservative on how much sits in the emergency fund. In my case i also have the 401k with match that has grown pretty well which is another “oh sh*t” fund. So if nothing else this article has me wanting to re-asses my pain threshold.

        Food for thought, as always :)

        • says

          Zol,

          Thanks for your perspective! I appreciate the thoughts.

          And you have the gist of it completely correct: The larger your passive dividend income stream becomes, the less cash you need for emergencies. And I hope that once my dividend income exceeds my expenses the passive income will increase at a rate far beyond my expenses, as such becoming a runaway snowball of passive income. At that point it’ll be reinvesting excess dividend income, growing the snowball even more. Eventually, you wouldn’t even think about having an emergency fund. That’s the plan, anyway. :)

          Best wishes!

  14. says

    That would be an interesting way to view my dividend income, but given the volatility of dividends in a truly bear market — exactly when I may need an emergency fund insured by the FDIC to get me through, should I lose my job — I wouldn’t want to rely on dividends as my emergency fund. But that doesn’t mean I look at my dividends as expendable; I’ll still only reinvest them.*

    But I also don’t keep my emergency fund in a savings account. Like many PF/FI bloggers, I use laddered long-term CDs with Ally. My money won’t substantially appreciate, but with their decent interest rates, it won’t substantially depreciate (or depreciate at all, hopefully).

    Like you said, to each their own. For me, I think I’ll rest easier (and be more confident in my investing) if I know that I have at least a little something isolated from the markets.

    (*=Take my words with a grain of salt. I’m only a few months into my investing/FI journey, meaning I just received my first dividend payment a week or so ago [KO] and DRIPed it.)

  15. Luke says

    “given the volatility of dividends in a truly bear market…”
    I don’t understand this comment. You do realize that some companies have raised dividends for over 20 years and even some that have raised dividends for over 50 years. That doesn’t sound too volatile to me. This is why Jason emphasizes quality companies with “wide moats” that probably, at worst, would keep their dividend the same instead of increasing it.

    • says

      You do realize that some companies cut their dividends during the last recession, right? (For instance, GE cut its dividend by 68 percent.) Sure, diversification may help you avoid feeling that, but it’s no guarantee of income security.

      Let’s say there’s another recession along the lines of what we saw a few years ago, and I lose my job. Let’s further suppose that my dividend income is not yet at a point where I could comfortably live off of it; I might be able to if I pinch pennies but, as a Manhattan resident, it would be tough. In that situation, I don’t want to have to lose sleep over whether some of my holdings will slash their dividends. I’d rather have enough cash stashed away to meet my basic living expenses while I look for a new job, and continue to reinvest my dividend income during the hypothetical recession (which is precisely when I’d want to be increasing my holdings.)

      Like I said before, to each their own. And for me to feel I have a safe emergency fund, I don’t want to have to worry about whether my holdings are the sort “that probably, at worst, would keep their dividend the same,” let alone whether they’d cut them.

      • says

        Dave,

        I wasn’t suggesting that people go without an emergency fund. This wasn’t a post about emergency funds. Rather, I was simply suggesting that investors think about their dividend income as a spigot of cash that can be redirected away from reinvesting and instead toward paying bills in an emergency. If dividend income covered all of your expenses outright then you’d be financially independent and this entire conversation would be moot.

        I keep 3-6 months’ worth of cash around, sometimes a little less if I’m seeing a lot of opportunity in the market. And I also have around $10k in untapped credit available to me.

        Again, I wasn’t saying you shouldn’t keep emergency cash lying around. I’m simply saying you may not need as much as you think you do if you’ve been able to build up a sizable dividend income stream and are able to keep your expenses in check.

        Best regards!

  16. says

    I just spent five years becoming debt free including the house and I “only” had my baby emergency fund of $1000 to cover me. But, it was enough in most cases. In that five year period, I had to tap the emergency fund half a dozen times or more. Maybe I was lucky (aka the username) with no major medical expenses or job loss. I agree completely with you on keeping the “cash” emergency fund to a minimum, and think about other ways of creating income (including dividend income) as part of your emergency plan.

    Because I’m totally debt free now, my fully funded emergency fund (3 to 6 months of expenses) consists of several thousand in cash, silver coins and bullion (in case of a zombie apocalypse), rental income, and a small amount of oil and gas well income (never sell your mineral rights!). My retirement investments are mostly in index funds, but since becoming debt free I’m concentrating on building my DGS portfolio.

    Thanks again Jason for another great topic to discuss!

    • says

      luckydog17,

      Nothing wrong with a little luck! I enjoy as much of it as I can get. Though, hard work seems to invite good luck. :)

      And congrats to you for becoming debt free. That’s a fantastic spot to be in. And I hope we don’t see a zombie apocalypse anytime soon!

      Thanks for sharing your perspective. It’s much appreciated!

      Cheers.

    • Zol says

      I dont have enough money to fully prepare for zombie level trade currency but i do have a very good supply of TP, Beer and shotgun shells. I have to imagine this will make me very popular with the neighbors =P

  17. says

    Love this topic. I keep an emergency fund for a lot of reasons, but have been thinking of reducing it recently now that I finally have a healthy Roth and I’ve started DGI. Folks should remember that after 5 years of investing in a Roth, you can remove your *contributions* without penalty, and I hit my 5 year mark this year. (Not that I’m thinking about ever touching it, but hopefully readers get the idea.)

    Since following your blog, I’ve grown my dividends by $1000 in just over a year. Would love to move some of my EF into my investment account but my husband is still pretty fearful of the “what ifs” that we’ve already planned for.

    • Nat says

      Just wanted to clarify that you can remove your contributions from a Roth penalty-free at any time, you don’t have to wait five years.

    • says

      In Budgets We Trust,

      Congrats on growing your dividend income. Keep up the great work! :)

      And I keep an emergency fund as well, but I just don’t subscribe to the notion that you need to have 6 months’ worth of expenses lying around in cash. Furthermore, the more my dividend income grows the less cash I feel I need.

      And Nat is correct; you don’t need to wait 5 years to withdraw contributions from your Roth IRA. So that’s good news for you. :)

      Best wishes!

  18. says

    Great post, Jason. I keep a relatively low amount of cash $3,000-$4,000 in my checking accounts as an emergency fund. If I ever needed more, I would simply sell off some of the funds from my brokerage account. I also have several credit cards that I never carry a balance on. I would use those first to get the rewards. Even in an emergency, I need to get my miles!

    • says

      Addison,

      I’m in the same spot as you. I tend to keep $5k or so in cash, and then I also have $10k in untapped credit. And I use my credit cards for every expense possible from month to month and gladly cash in those reward dollars!

      Thanks for stopping by. :)

      Best regards.

      • Ravi says

        Untapped credit? Do you have a personal line of credit? I’ve been trying to find a way to minimize cash on hand. I don’t mind if I have to draw on it as a last resort. It would be better to pay a little interest once or twice than to stay too liquid.

        • says

          Ravi,

          I have $10k in credit card limits that I don’t use. I use a couple of credit cards that have great reward programs and I pay them off at the end of every month. But with $10k in credit limits, I could easily cover major bills in an emergency and pay later. This would come after I’ve exhausted some of my available cash and dividend income. I hope to never be in this situation, however.

          Cheers!

      • Zol says

        I absolutely love my reward dollars on my CC. I put literally EVERY dime that i can on there and pay off at the end of the month. Treat the thing like a debit card. Found ways to put cable / insurance / you name it on there. Even if they charge a processing fee often times you’ll find it works out in your favor. It does require not looking at a CC as free money though.

        I do feel slightly bad for the ma/pa stores but they chose to offer CC processing, i’m gonna take advantage of it.

        It’s also strange to look at the fact that a single one of my CC’s i can plop 25k on with credit. I hadn’t actually ever looked at it like that as far as a “backup”. Once again, more food for thought on “emergency fund” and what it really means.

        Do we include lines of credit? I’m so ingrained that credit is just a way to get in trouble… thinking about it in those terms scares me. Same thing with line of credit on house. In my head i always treated that as dead money but i’m not so sure anymore when you start adding it all up and deciding what makes sense to leverage in an emergency.

        Of course, you could always be one of those people that uses every one of those lines of credit to jack-up your investments. Obviously thats not what im talking about hehe. Just how do i view these backstops in the overall scheme of things.

        • says

          Zol,

          I use my credit cards like you: I try to use them for every possible expense in the universe, then pay them off at the end of the month. The reward dollars just build up until I have enough to cash in on a statement credit (like I did last month).

          However, I would only want to tap true credit in the form of keeping a balance if an actual emergency actually befell me. This would be a last resort, coming after exhausting most of my available cash, dividend income, and other income sources. But it’s good to know that it’s there if I need it, which I hopefully will not.

          Just my thoughts on it! It’s my “safety blanket”. :)

          Take care.

  19. Dave. says

    You want to have a 5% cash pot so you can buy stocks when the market is going down. You have been fairly lucky starting your dividend income plan during a bull market. It is much different in a bear market.

    • says

      Dave.,

      I typically have around 5% or so cash set aside, but I include this as part of my emergency fund. As such, my cash pile, and emergency fund, oscillates depending on how much cash I’m investing at any given time which is based on stock values.

      And I would disagree with your assertion that I’ve been lucky to invest during a bull market. My dividend income would assuredly be higher right now if I were investing in a flat market or bear market, because stock prices would have been lower, and thus yields would have been higher. My cash would have been able to buy more shares, and with that more dividend income. So my Freedom Fund would be worth less on paper, but I’d have larger equity stakes in the businesses I’m invested in and a larger claim to future cash flow via dividend income.

      Best regards!

      • Dave says

        Everyone thinks they are a genius during a bull market. In 2008 nearly half of my “safe dividend stocks” reduced or elimated the dividend.

  20. donebyforty says

    Very clever approach to use cashflow instead of cash, Jason. We go the traditional route of holding a cash emergency fund, but we feel the opportunity costs are not so great. Like all types of insurance, there’s a small cost for protection.

    • says

      DB40,

      I hear you. And it’s always worth whatever price to be able to sleep well at night. If I was up all night worrying based on my current strategy then I would certainly change things up. I don’t think anyone ever complained of “too much cash lying around”. It’s a good problem to have, right? :)

      Best regards.

  21. says

    Great plan for an emergency. Plus your expenses are very low comapared to others, my rent is double what you pay. Im in the northeast, so that explains the HCOL. You have very little to worry with a high dividend income stream.

    • says

      RichUncle EL,

      I can imagine it’s much more expensive in the northeast. I never had a desire to live in that part of the US because of the high cost of living. In fact, I would say cost of living is a primary concern of mine whenever considering a place to live. Obviously, that’s not all there is to it, but I’d much prefer living in a place with a low cost of living, all other things being fairly equal.

      But it’s good you’re building wealth in spite of that! Great job! :)

      Cheers.

  22. says

    With your dividend+online income an emergency fund can be rather low… maybe it can be saved in a bond mutual fund, with monthly dividends. I think there are plenty out there!
    I am not aware of all your options, but here in Portugal you can keep your money in certificates that pay 3% (anual rate) every 3 months. Nice place to have that fund parked.

    • says

      Trader,

      I could easily park my cash in short-term CDs and ladder them accordingly. I don’t do this, because I’d rather be ready to pounce on opportunities the second I feel the need to. And because I keep such a small amount of cash around, the opportunity costs are rather small. I could probably increase my return here a bit, but I’m okay with leaving a very small amount of money on the table.

      Cheers!

    • says

      Mabelle,

      I’m totally with you. And I completely share your enthusiasm in trying to live comfortably off of passive income. That’s the name of the game, and I definitely aim to win! :)

      Thanks for the support!

      Best regards.

  23. says

    Hello dividend mantra,

    it certainly makes sense to keep some cash. I have 12 months of pay as cash reserve. It gives me the luxury that I will never need to sell stocks when I don’t want to. And of course it is awesome to have a lot of cash when the stock prices would drop 10-20%. If this would happen I can pick up a lot of dividend paying stocks. Just like Warren I like to keep some cash on my hands.

    Cheers,

    Geblin

    • says

      Geblin,

      I prefer to be 100% invested, minus whatever cash I need for emergencies and day-to-day expenses. Sometimes I’ll allocate a little more to my cash position if I find attractively valued stocks particularly hard to come by, but that is quite rare. Right now, I’m allocating more to cash simply because I’m contemplating some changes in my personal life, but that’s a discussion for another time.

      And I don’t think there’s anything wrong with keeping 12 months of cash on hand. If that works for you, then rock on. I simply wrote this post so that investors could keep in mind that the dividend income itself could cover one in a cash crunch.

      Best regards!

      • says

        Just a small remark I’m from Belgium. This means most of my stocks are European which means we get our dividends paid on a yearly basis which makes a big difference.

        Cheers,
        G

  24. Roady26.2 says

    Mantra thanks for the great read!

    I think it depends on the individuals situation. I’m 29 and keep a lot of money in cash (45K-50K) 18-24 months living expenses. I also invest each month into my dividend paying stocks. I’ve grown my wife’s and my retirement accounts to just over 100K and recently started and an income account of 15K where I put extra money into dividend stocks that I could tap in case of an emergency. The retirement portfolio is about 50/50 between Roth IRAs and a taxable account.

    I will be at a career crossroads in 1-2 years and will either switch careers or make significantly less money than I currently make. My wife has 2 more years of school (20k estimated cost) left in a master’s degree and we are paying for that rather than taking loans. This is one of the reasons I’m keeping extra cash.

    We would like to start a family within a couple years and she currently pays out of pocket for health insurance (3K a year) as spousal benefits are not covered by my employer. We both drive old cars, mine a 1992 Honda with 195,000 miles and one will need upgraded within a year or two. We owe less than 80K on our town home and have a vary manageable monthly mortgage, but I’m hesitant to take the cash emergency fund much under 40K with all the changes on the horizon.

    I like your idea of dividends as a safety net. As my taxable account grows and I start putting more money into the income account I’m hoping to feel more at ease about dwindling down the cash pile, but I’m not in a hurry to plow 30K into the market.

    • says

      Roady26.2,

      I agree that how much cash one holds depends a lot on their individual situation. And we all have different personal circumstances that would either force us to hold a lot of cash, or allow us a little more flexibility in terms of cash allocation. I know that I can get away with a rather small cash position, but if I owned a home and had a family I would certainly want to have more cash around, and that’s not even factoring in investments.

      Although, in your situation I think you’ll definitely feel more comfortable as your taxable account grows and the dividend income rises. That would definitely allow you a little more flexibility, and you should still be able to sleep well at night knowing that you’ve got cold, hard cash coming in regularly in case something happens. :)

      And congrats on a great financial situation there with driving an old car, having a small balance on the mortgage, and also having some large investment and cash accounts. You guys are in great shape, and certainly will be in great fiscal shape when you’re ready to raise a family! Best of luck.

      Cheers.

  25. says

    Really good point Jason. Your portfolio is already an emergency fund and salary replacement insurance by itself. I know you’d do anything to avoid selling shares because it’s your freedom fund, but you own shares of great companies that are very liquid on the market. So, if in a really really bad situation, you could just sell some shares and access your money fast!

    I don’t personaly keep more than a month of expenses in cash as an emergency fund. My income is steady and I could sell index funds or shares if I really were in a really bad situation. I have a lot of available credit too. I know… depending on debts during an emergency is generally not a good idea, but I’d feel ok with it since they are covered by mostly liquid assets.

    I also have mortgage insurance and salary insurance in case of sickness… My wife could support me and I could support her too in case of emergency… We don’t work in the same field.. So we have income diversification .. Lol

    Plus, here in Canada we have all sorts of government insured salary replacement in case of job loss or disability so I don’t see why I’d keep 10 or 20k in my checking account. But, as soon as my wife’s going to be pregnant, I might decide to keep more cash readily available…

    Has you underlined, everybody’s situation is different and things can evolve over time. You have to feel comfortable with your situation. When I was self-employed, I always kept 10k in my checking account.

    Thanks again Jason. Nice post as usual. I also liked your week-end reading post. You made me discover that it was possible to live in a big house for 500$ / month in Thailand! Truly amazing!

    • says

      Allan,

      Glad you liked the post! It’s really all about opening your mind to new possibilities. While I certainly hope to never need my dividend income for an emergency, just the thought of knowing that it’s there if I need it really takes a lot of weight off my shoulders. I simply encourage investors to think outside the box a bit.

      And I’m glad you guys are in a great financial position there. You guys seem to be well insured against any major emergencies, so you’re pretty free to invest your free capital as opportunities present themselves.

      And that $500/month house in Thailand is pretty crazy. Amazing what kind of lifestyle $1,000/month or so can buy in SE Asia. :)

      Cheers!

  26. says

    You are surely a passionate investor Jason. The way you’ve written the blog it seems every time the thought of investing and making money out of everything goes in your mind. That’s amazing. I consider myself to be a prudent investor but I also never thought of earning from dividend income and utilize it for emergency purpose. You surely have pushed me to think about investing in a different manner. Great work Jason.

    • says

      Fionna,

      Thanks for the very kind words! I’m glad the passion I feel for investing and the pursuit of freedom comes through pretty clearly. I have so much energy when it comes to writing and investing. :)

      And I’m really happy that this post allowed you to think of dividend income in a whole new way. Dividend income is incredibly flexible, and that’s just one of many aspects I really appreciate.

      Best wishes!

  27. dee says

    Your post, and the comments, were really interesting. I have a large amount of cash sitting in the bank which irks me (I’ve compared it to what it could have returned in one of my holdings over that period and it was sizable) but oh everyone says you need an emergency fund…but i’ve realised i need to think WHAT those emergencies could be and then work backward. Doing that has made me realised i really only need a few thousand and i’ve just spent the afternoon researching where i am going to put that extra cash. I’m nervous, but even with ups and downs it will almost certainly be more than if i left it in the bank. At least that’s what i’m telling myself….:) I’ve really enjoyed finding your blog and catching up on your post (i’ve had a similar journey to you too). Looking forward to reading more!

    • says

      dee,

      Glad this post got you thinking about what an appropriate emergency fund might look like for you. I think the typical recommendations of 6 months or a year of expenses might be a little extreme for some. And if you can put that money to work building outside income sources, you’ll need even less cash set aside. And this has a compounding effect where you keep putting your cash to work, building income, which gets reinvested creating even more income. Before you know it you don’t need an emergency fund at all. I mean do you think Warren Buffett needs a year of expenses set aside?

      Best regards!

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