TV's best financial advice

‘Friends’ needs an emergency fund

The show: Friends

The situation: Monica Geller gets fired and struggles to find a new job. Ross convinces her to ask their parents for a loan. When Monica confesses to being unemployed, her dad brings up the financial mantra he taught them.

Dad: “Ten percent of your paycheck, where does it go?”

Monica and Ross: “In the bank.”

Dad: “That’s right! So she dips into her savings, that’s what it’s there for.”

The problem: Monica hasn’t put 10% of her paycheck into the bank.

The lesson: Monica should have listened to her father. If she’d stashed part of her paycheck in an emergency fund, she could have covered her bills until she found a new job.

"An emergency situation like a job loss is exactly the reason you need to set aside money from every paycheck," says Shari Olefson, author of Financial Fresh Start: Your Five-Step Plan for Adapting and Prospering in the New Economy.

Like Monica, most Americans don’t have enough savings to cover emergencies.

A 2012 survey by Pitney Bowes found the average savings account balance was $5,923 — far less than the six months' worth of living expenses recommended.

If you’re struggling to save, Olefson suggests looking to make cuts from your monthly expenses: Canceling premium cable channels, skipping a morning latte or carpooling to work can help you allocate extra money to an emergency fund.

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