WAUSAU (WAOW) -- Are you ready for a financial rainy day?
A recent national study showed many Americans are not, and that they'd struggle to pay for things like a car or house repair.
Experts say you need to conduct a financial fire drill to determine your preparedness. And those who have tried it say it makes a huge difference.
Tim Wissbroecker and his wife were once $42,000 in debt.
"We had an auto loan, we had student loans, credit cards," said Wissbroecker.
One day they decided, the debt had to go. They devoted all their efforts to paying it off. But their journey to financial prosperity didn't stop there. They started saving.
"It was so a whole lot easier once the debt was gone to build that up quite quickly actually," said Wissbroecker.
Now, just more than a year later, they have several months of living expenses saved up.
"It's nice being able to get your paycheck and put a large chunk of money into your savings," said Wissbroecker.
Financial experts say paying off consumer debt is the first step toward financial stability. But after that, they say, setting aside several months worth of pay is crucial.
"Just as an emergency type situation in case a job would be lost," said Cole Bruner, vice president at Buska Financial Services in Rothschild.
Stop and look at your own situation. What if a job was lost? Or someone got sick? Or the car broke down?
If you're not prepared, a minor emergency can easily become major.
"Especially if people have children in their families," said Bruner.
Bruner says you shouldn't be afraid to start saving something.
"Five dollars a week, ten dollars a week over time, does make a big difference," said Bruner.
Almond resident Kristy Pleet and her husband try to save a little here and there, and she says it has helped.
"If something's come up you know something for the car needs or something for the house, I'll take that money out of there and use that definitely," said Pleet.
But her reserve is definitely not where she'd like it.
"We're finally in a spot where we can put money aside and leave it there," said Pleet.
Others don't have much money to spare, but they still find creative ways to save. Holly Swaney set up a fund to buy a truck back in 2003. She drops coins in whenever she can. When an emergency pops up, she raids the fund.
Swaney says she's pleasantly surprised by how much can build up. But she's still waiting for her truck.
It takes work, but experts say building an emergency fund is important. They also say it should come before you start heavily investing for retirement. That way, life's emergencies won't be so devastating.
"It's important to put away emergency funds after tax as well because then you won't pay a penalty to use those funds," said Bruner.
And, as Tim Wissbroecker can attest, that money safely set aside makes a big difference.
"It's very comforting to both my wife and I," he said.
For more information on saving, visit http://money.cnn.com/2011/05/23/magazines/moneymag/budgeting_for_emergency_fund.moneymag/index.htm?iid=EL.
Online Reporter: Daniel Woodruff