So, you want to be a traveler and make the ‘Big Bucks’? The first thing to realize is that Travel Nursing isn’t the ‘cash cow’ that many think it is! Read about some of the other Travel Nursing Myths you should be aware of.
Have a clear vision of the realities
Travel nursing can be an amazing lifestyle and experience but it’s important that you go into it with a clear vision of the realities. Contracts can, and DO get canceled (I’ve had it happen). This can occur for a variety of reasons from a bad fit to the hospital suddenly being over-staffed, budget reasons, or even a manager that just doesn’t like you. Fair? No! Reality? YES!
End a contract early
In addition, emergencies arise that might require you to end a contract early. Family medical issues are the number one reason for this occurring. There is also the issue of sick time, canceled shifts due to low census, and time off between contracts. It’s important to remember that as a traveler, we don’t get sick pay or vacation pay. If you miss work due to sickness or take time off between contracts, it’s up to you to make sure you are financially prepared.
Issues with Pay
As with any company, there can also be issues with ‘pay’. (Know your company’s reputation well!). I’ve experienced hiccups with the setup of my direct deposit, which delayed my pay as well as a couple of various payroll issues where my hours didn’t get transferred correctly. Mistakes aren’t common with payroll but they do happen and when they do, you don’t want to be left without grocery or gas money until it gets fixed!
How do I determine how much I need to set aside for an emergency fund.
There is no set number or amount that would fit everyone’s situations. I always recommend that you have enough in savings to at the very minimum get you back home! Ultimately, the best scenario would be to have a buffer of 3 months worth of financial back-up in addition to what you determine it would take to get you back home. This should be an easily accessible ‘liquid’ account that you can access on short notice.
Unemployment for a traveler
I get asked often if there are expected periods of unemployment for a traveler. As for a steady paycheck….travel positions are abundant right now, especially if you are flexible on the location. You shouldn’t have any trouble staying employed. If you are prepared for those unexpected cancellations and time off between contracts, you should be fine. I’ve personally been traveling for over 9 years and by being flexible on location, I’ve never been without a position when I wanted one. But having an emergency fund set aside in case an emergency arises or you have difficulty securing your next position is crucial.
A good place to start is
Monthly expenditures * Re-employment period (or 3 months) + expenses to return home = Baseline safety net amount
Many of us have traveled without a significant financial buffer but it’s not something that I recommend. For more information on travel nursing, you may want to read through these articles on Contracts.