Finding Your SWANN (Sleep Well At Night Number) to Establish Appropriate Emergency Savings

At Team Duncan Financial, we have many conversations about money, security, prosperity, and freedom throughout our Financial Life Planning process. We’ve discovered that proactive couples may want to reframe their expectations around financial “surprises.” In our experience, unexpected expenses should not be any kind of surprise. These “surprise” bills are not only normal but expected, and those who are prepared with emergency savings fare better when confronted with an unexpected cost. 

There is no precise formula for the right dollar amount of emergency savings. We believe the most effective approach uses both your head and your heart to answer this question for yourself, 

“How much cash do I need to have in my savings account to ‘Sleep Well At Night’?”


Logical Reasons to Establish Your SWANN


Here are some practical reasons why couples should consider establishing and building emergency savings as an important cornerstone in their big-picture, wealth-building strategy:


  • Financial Security: Life is unpredictable, and unexpected events such as medical emergencies, job loss, or major home repairs can arise. Having emergency savings provides a safety net that helps you maintain financial stability during challenging times.


  • Preserving Investments: You want to be positioned to take advantage of investment opportunities. Having emergency savings can prevent the need to liquidate investments prematurely to cover urgent expenses. This ensures that long-term investment strategies remain intact.


  • Avoiding Debt: Without emergency savings, you might resort to using credit cards or loans to cover unforeseen expenses. This can lead to high-interest debt that can be detrimental to your financial plan. An emergency fund helps avoid this situation.


  • Short-Term Goals: Emergency savings can also act as a bridge to meet short-term financial goals, such as a needed weekend getaway or to replace that old, worn-out lounge chair.



  1. Together, write out a list of your monthly expenses. Use your online bank and credit card activity as a guide so that your list is extensive and complete.
  2. Individually, add a note by each expense to categorize it as a 1) need, 2) want, or 3) wish.
  3. Take note of the similarities and differences in your categorization.  Are your needs your partner’s wants? Are your partner’s wishes your wants?
  4. Compare and combine your list and determine your total monthly “needs” expenses.
  5. Multiply your total “needs” expenses by 3, 6, and 8 and discuss the results. Which number feels most realistic for your situation?


Heart-Centered Reasons To Establish Your SWANN:


There are also heart-centered motivators that can inspire couples to establish emergency savings. 


  • Reduced Stress and Emotional Well-Being: A financial safety net provides emotional security and greater resilience. Having a dedicated emergency fund can significantly reduce stress, arguments, and anxiety when expenses arise that aren’t listed in your budget, so there isn’t worry and sleep lost over how to cover the costs.


  • Maintaining Your Lifestyle and Your Vision: You have a vision and lifestyle that you’ve centered your life around. Having an emergency savings allows you to feel more confident and focused on what matters most to you when financial setbacks arise.


  • Opportunity for Growth: Emergency savings provide you with the confidence to take calculated risks in your career or investments, knowing that you have a safety net to fall back on if things don’t go as planned.


  • Presence: Knowing that you have a financial cushion in place provides peace of mind, allowing you to focus on enjoying life’s moments without constant worry about the future.




  1. Assign a number, 1 (low need)  through 10 (high need), that describes the level of financial security you need to sleep well at night and discuss your number with your partner.
  2. Reflect on the “needs” expense amounts listed above. Would 3, 6, or 8 months of needs expense coverage feel right to address your security needs and help you sleep well at night? Can you agree on one? If not, what is the median of your answers (median number: add both numbers and divide by 2)? Does this feel like a good compromise?
  3. What other conversations would help you feel more comfortable approaching your financial situation?
Post by Amy Duncan

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