Should You Ever Invest Your Emergency Fund?

By Pam O’Brien · August 29, 2023 · 6 minute read

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Should You Ever Invest Your Emergency Fund?

An emergency fund can help you cover sudden and unexpected expenses. If your company downsizes, or you get in a car accident that isn’t covered by insurance, having money set aside to help pay the bills could keep costs from spiraling out of control.

But how big of an emergency fund do you need and does it need to be in liquid assets like cash, or should you invest your emergency fund?

Read on to learn more about whether investing an emergency fund is a smart idea.

Should You Invest Your Emergency Fund?

The default answer, historically, has been no when it comes to investing an emergency fund, because of the potential risk and the likelihood that you won’t be able to access it when you need it. But, increasingly, investing your emergency fund is becoming a viable option — particularly if your situation makes you less reliant on cash at hand.

So, should you invest your emergency fund? There are a number of reasons you might want to consider doing so. For instance, the returns can add up and if you wait, you could be leaving money on the table.

Here are some of the pros and cons to investing an emergency fund:

The Pros of Investing an Emergency Fund

You Could Make a Higher Return on Your Money

The number-one reason to park your emergency fund in an investment account is the potential for a higher return on your money than in a savings account.

For instance, you could put your emergency fund into a money market account or high-yield bank account that will earn you a higher rate of interest (currently more than 4% APY) than a standard bank account.

You Can Still Access Your Funds Easily

There are a number of investment options, such as a money market account, or high-yield bank account ,or even a Roth IRA, that allow you to withdraw your money if you need it.

For instance, with a Roth IRA, you can withdraw contributions at any time without paying a penalty, unlike a traditional IRA that may impose a 10% penalty on early withdrawals.

The Cons of Investing an Emergency Fund

It Might Take You Longer to Get Your Money

You might have to go through extra steps to get your money. Even if you temporarily put an emergency expense on a credit card and then pull money out of a money market account to pay off the credit card when it’s due, that’s still less accessible than simply having the money in your bank account.

You Could Risk Losing Money

If you invest your money — whether it’s in a mutual fund or pick and choose your own stocks — it always carries some risk. The market can dip at any given point, which can be a problem if your investments dip at the same time you need to tap into them.

If you’re considering investing your emergency fund, then it can be helpful to understand your options and the basics of investing.

This chart gives you a side-by-side comparison of the pros and cons of investing an emergency fund.

Pros

Cons

You could earn a higher return of your money by investing it. You risk losing your money if the stock market drops.
The money can be easily accessible if you invest in a money market account or high-yield savings account. It can take you longer to get your money and may involve an extra step or two.

💡 Quick Tip: All investments come with some degree of risk — and some are riskier than others. Before investing online, decide on your investment goals and how much risk you want to take.

3 Options for Investing An Emergency Fund

Should I invest my emergency fund? This is a question you’ll need to consider carefully. Be sure to weigh the benefits and drawbacks.

Part of the decision to invest your emergency fund will be finding an appropriate account. There are a few options that could work, depending on your financial situation.

High-yield savings account

These accounts come with a higher APY — generally, more than 4% right now — than traditional bank accounts. You can easily access your money from an online high-yield savings account, just as with any other bank account.

Money Market Account

Money market accounts earn interest and are essentially a combination of a savings account and a checking account. They tend to be low risk and may allow you to access your money by writing a check or using a debit card.

Roth IRA

With a Roth IRA, you can contribute money (up to $6,500 in 2023) and withdraw your contributions (but not your earnings) without penalty. The contributions you make to an IRA are taxable.

And remember, the general rule of thumb when it comes to investing is, the higher the investment risk, the higher the potential for return — but a risky investment could be even riskier if you intend to use the money as an emergency fund.

💡 Quick Tip: Did you know that you must choose the investments in your IRA? Once you open a new IRA and start saving, you get to decide which mutual funds, ETFs, or other investments you want — it’s totally up to you.

Investing With SoFi

If you don’t want to invest your entire emergency fund, you could consider saving a portion in a traditional savings account and investing another allotted amount. That way, you could rely on cash for immediate emergencies and have a backup of invested funds you can rely on in the event that something major, and more expensive, happens.

What’s most important is that you have a plan to deal with emergencies — because like it or not, eventually, you’ll likely have some unexpected event or cost that you need to cover.

Ready to invest in your goals? It’s easy to get started when you open an investment account with SoFi Invest. You can invest in stocks, exchange-traded funds (ETFs), mutual funds, alternative funds, and more. SoFi doesn’t charge commissions, but other fees apply (full fee disclosure here).

Invest with as little as $5 with a SoFi Active Investing account.


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FAQ

Is it wise to invest your emergency fund?

Whether to invest your emergency fund or not is a personal decision that you should consider carefully, since investments can be risky. One thing to keep in mind: Your funds should be easily accessible so that you can tap into them quickly if an emergency happens. Think about possible investments that offer liquidity, such as high-yield bank accounts and money market funds.

How much of my emergency fund should I invest?

Experts advise having at least three to six months’ worth of expenses on hand where you can access them easily, such as in a bank account. Anything more than that you may want to consider investing. But investing is a personal choice and one you should consider carefully, and it will also depend on your specific financial situation.

What should an emergency fund not be used for?

It’s best to use an emergency fund for urgent or sudden expenses that are necessary, such as emergency car or home repairs. You should not use an emergency fund for frivolous expenses or things you simply want, like a fancy vacation or new clothes.


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