No. of Recommendations: 12
You're absolutely correct - money is fungible. From a completely rational perspective, it does not make a difference whether the unexpected cost is financed via the emergency fund or the retirement account. That said, humans are not rational economic automatons capable of optimizing all investment/finance decisions. In fact, our ability to reason is clouded by our emotions, so we've devised tricks to help us to save and invest more.

One of those tricks includes setting up different "mental accounts", where we allocate funds to different accounts to serve different purposes. For example, many individuals set up retirement accounts to build up a nest egg that is not available to use prior to retirement. Occasionally tapping into this account would have the effect of removing the self-imposed restriction and freeing the funds for immediate use, with potentially disastrous implications to the individual's retirement goals. I suspect the temptation would be too much for many, including myself, so it's best to partition our savings, even if this exercise is only imaginary.
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