Borrow to buy land?

Question: My husband is the primary income, and I work 12 to 15 hours per week from home while I take care of the kids. We have a 5 month emergency fund, and he is saving 10% from his pay for retirement. Our only debt is the mortgage. We would love to build a house one day. The question is ... should we take money from our emergency fund to buy the land? We are nervous about doing this. We also hate to add another debt payment. Additionally, we are not investing other than in his 401k fund. Should we do anything differently? It is very hard because the emergency fund was a long hard process to build. Litsa, Charlotte, NC

Answer: When I read your question my first thought was that you've already answered the question. You don't think now is a good time for you and your family to drain your savings and take on debt to buy land. I would agree. Even though the economic news is less bad these days the economy remains weak with the unemployment rate at 9.4% and home prices still trending lower.

That said, it's terrific that you've managed to set aside a 5-month emergency savings account. That isn't easy to do. I would focus on continuing to add to that savings. It's a strong financial foundation for your household.

You should also have your own retirement savings plan. A SEP-IRA is an easy retirement savings plan to set up for the self-employed. You could also open up a traditional IRA (funded with pretax dollars) or a Roth-IRA (the contributions are with after-tax dollars.) You can learn more about these retirement savings IRA options on the Getting Personal site.

About the author

Chris Farrell is the economics editor of Marketplace Money.

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