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I've never heard of the 10% rule, but it's like all other suggestions, a rule of thumb. I think more importantly you need to know what your living expenses are and then use that as your guide for the emergency fund. You might make 40k/year but only "need" or "live off" 25k, therefore, your emergency fund should contain about 6-12k.

As far as 403(b) vs IRA, if you can invest in an S&P index fund in the 403(b), I would max it out. That will reduce your taxable income and possibly put you in a lower income tax bracket, maybe. Then fund a Roth IRA, but don't do it at the expense of living like a "bag lady". If you don't have access to an S&P 500 index, I'd reverse the process, but that's my personal opinion.

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