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The best place for your emergency fund

Sep 11, 2018

The best place for your emergency fundEvery financial plan should start with an emergency fund. Even if you have debt, before you start focusing on accelerating those repayments, you need to first build up an emergency fund. An emergency fund is what will stop you going back into debt.

Ideally you should build up three months’ worth of expenses, but that takes time and commitment. At the very least you should start with R10 000 and build it up as you get bonuses or extra cash.

An emergency fund needs to be accessible, but not too accessible, to prevent you from being tempted to use it for non-emergencies.

The worst thing you can do is leave your emergency fund in your current account. Apart from easy access, you won’t be earning any interest. You need to select a separate investment account that earns a better interest rate and keeps the money separate from day-to-day expenses.

To keep your banking simple, it is easiest to select an appropriate investment account offered by your bank. Rates depend on how much you deposit and how long you lock it in for, so it is important to do your research on the best solution for your needs.

You could keep the money in an investment account which is accessible within 24 hours. This would allow you to access the funds for an emergency that requires you to have money straight away, but in most cases, we have some time to pay the bill.

In that case, a 7-day notice or even 32-day notice account provides a good solution by providing both a higher interest rate and some distance between you and your money. A one-month fixed deposit is also an option as you can just then roll it over at the end of every month if you do not need the money.

One of the best options is a flexible fixed deposit where your money is fixed for a period, but you can access some of the funds immediately. This would be ideal once you have built up a larger emergency fund of at least R20 000, as half would still be accessible within 24 hours. Absa has an interesting option where you can access any percentage of the investment but the interest rate changes accordingly.

You also need to consider that fixed deposits do not necessarily allow you to add to the balance during the fixed term. In this case you would want to build up a balance in a shorter-term investment and transfer to your fixed deposit at the end of each notice period.



  1. I think the money market unit trusts are better, you can withdraw whenever and access to the funds is normally within 3-5 days of submitting the instruction. I use Allan Gray money market. interest is much better

    • Agreed, returns are better, cost is extremely low, and not easily accessible without some effort.

  2. Hi Maya, what about a money market account?

    • Depends what you mean by Money Market account. If with a bank then that falls under “access within one day” – banks have different names for what is essentially a money market. Its about finding the best interest rate. If unit trust – then that is OK but understand there is some risk and it can take several days to reach your account


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Maya Fisher-French author of Money Questions Answered

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