Debt-Free Man Considers Stopping 401K Contributions to Build Up an Emergency Fund

November 13, 2018


Dear Dave,

Should I stop making contributions to my 401(k) account for a year in order to save up an emergency fund? Thanks to you, I’m 33 and debt-free.



Dear Blake,

Congratulations on being debt-free at such a young age!

I appreciate the credit, but the truth is I just pointed you in the right direction.

You made the sacrifices and did all the hard work.

I’m really proud of you!

Yes, my advice is to temporarily stop making contributions to your 401(k) until you save up an emergency fund of three to six months of expenses.

It shouldn’t take a year, though, to set aside an emergency fund if you’re debt-free and making decent money at your job. Just make it part of your monthly budget plan, and get that emergency fund set up in a few months.

Here’s the way I look at it.

If you don’t have an emergency fund, but you’re contributing to a 401(k), there’s a good chance you’ll end up cashing out your 401(k) if something happens that leaves you with a large, unexpected bill.

When you cash out a 401(k) early, you get hit with a penalty plus your tax rate.

That’s not a good plan!

And that’s just one of the reasons I tell people to have an emergency fund in place before they start investing.


* Dave Ramsey is CEO of Ramsey Solutions. He has authored seven best-selling books, including The Total Money Makeover. The Dave Ramsey Show is heard by more than 14 million listeners each week on 600 radio stations and multiple digital platforms. Follow Dave on the web at and on Twitter at @DaveRamsey.