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It’s easy — and smart — to save for a painful day

By Nathan Rice

I was lying on an examination table once again as another medical technician introduced himself to me while asking me to verify my name and date of birth. The vascular specialist had requested one more test.

The test came back normal, just like all the other tests I had gone through in the previous week, causing my doctor to state that he did not know the cause for the pain or inflammation in my hands and feet.

I don’t mind being a unique individual, but being “strange,” “unique,” or “weird” is not what you want to be when it comes to a medical issue. “We’ll figure it out,” the doctor assured me. “We’ll set appointments with a cardiologist, a hematologist, and a rheumatologist.”

I’d already lost track of how many doctors I had visited in the past week, and hearing that I needed to go to at least three more was not what I was hoping for. Nevertheless, I visited the front desk to set the appointments.

I know each appointment is going to have a co-pay, and every test is going to come with an invoice. My rainy-day fund has turned into a painful-day fund.

The potential for a medical issue is just one of countless reasons why building your savings is so important. Life takes a lot of twists and turns. A savings account, even a small one, can be a big help when one of those twists sends numerous unexpected bills.

Homeowners know this feeling all too well as many have struggled to replace a HVAC system, electrical unit, roof or damaged plumbing. Let’s not even mention auto repairs.

We don’t want to live our lives paranoid that an expensive repair to a home, a car or a body is lurking around the corner, but we’d be foolish if we didn’t realize that unexpected and expensive repairs are a part of life. The sad part is that while most of us know these things might happen, very few of us actually prepare for them.

The first step to building your savings is to realize the importance of doing so. Most of us claim that we know we need to save, but we assert there is simply nothing left after our monthly expenses. Once an unexpected expense arises, however, we scramble to see where we can get the money.

It often results in us making cuts to unnecessary spending or taking out a loan where monthly payments are required. In other words, we do what it takes to fix the air conditioner, repair the car or visit the doctor.

Why is it that we don’t do what it takes to save some money before we’re presented with a problem?

The next step is to actually start saving. A big part of the battle is just getting started. We love to proclaim that saving $5 a paycheck isn’t enough to matter, and while small amounts may take a while to add up, putting any amount aside gets us into the habit of saving. We learn to live without that $5 each month, and we may soon find ourselves being able to add a few more dollars each month into the proverbial piggy bank.

Lastly, let your financial institution help. Ask your financial representative for ways to start building a savings. What products and services do they have that can help you save?

For example, many institutions allow you to split your direct deposit, which makes savings easy. Ask your institution to take a certain amount every time you get paid and place it into a separate savings account. This leaves the funds liquid — meaning you can get them in an emergency — but away from your primary spending account.

Start saving today. You’ll never be disappointed that you have money available for a rainy day or a painful day.

Nathan Rice is the Relationship Manager of the Downtown Suffolk branch of ABNB Federal Credit Union. He is a Hampton Roads native and can be reached at nrice@abnb.org.