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In finance, a contingency refers to an uncertain future event that can affect the operation, profit, or outcome of a financial setup. It can be either a risk or opportunity, but it can’t be entirely controlled by the entity. It is usually accounted for in decision-making and financial planning with a “contingency fund” to cover unexpected expenses.


The phonetic spelling of the word “Contingency” is: /kənˈtɪndʒənsi/

Key Takeaways

Main Takeaways About Contingency

  1. Definition: Contingency refers to a potential event or circumstance that is possible but can’t be predicted with certainty. It’s often used in the context of planning or strategy, where the unknown elements could have a significant impact on desired outcomes.
  2. Contingency Planning: Given the unpredictable nature of contingencies, it’s vital for businesses, people, or organizations to have contingency plans. These are essentially backup plans that outline steps to take if the main plan fails due to unforeseen circumstances.
  3. Application in Different Areas: Contingency is a concept widely used in many areas such as business, finance, psychology and even philosophy. For instance, in business context, it might refer to contingency funds set aside to cover unexpected costs. In psychology, the concept is used to describe the conditional, or contingent, relationship between behavior and its consequences.


The term Contingency in the context of business/finance is crucial as it refers to the potential liabilities or costs that might arise due to certain unforeseen or unpredicted situations. These could include economic downturns, changes in market trends, company crises, or natural disasters. Contingency planning or building a contingency fund enables companies to handle these unexpected scenarios without disrupting their operations, financial wellbeing, or stability. Essentially, it’s a proactive risk management strategy that safeguards companies against potential future threats, ensuring resiliency and continuous growth despite uncertainties.


In the realm of finance and business, a contingency is a potential event or circumstance that may transpire in the future, but is uncertain and cannot be predicted with absolute certainty. The purpose of setting up contingencies is to anticipate potential setbacks, emergencies, or changes in business conditions and to ensure that there is a strategy or resources in place to mitigate any adverse effects that may arise. They serve as a buffer or emergency reserve that a business can use as an alternative to help them stabilise their operations when unexpected occurrences threaten their usual functions or profitability.A typical example where contingencies are used is in project management. For instance, there could be a construction project which might be affected by uncertain conditions like weather, availability of resources, etc. In such cases, a contingency plan or contingency fund would be set up. This ensures that if any unpredictable adverse situations occur, the project will not need to be stalled or terminated due to lack of resources or an inadequate response plan. Hence, contingencies are essential for effective risk management in businesses, helping protect businesses from unexpected setbacks and ensuring they are equipped to handle unexpected situations.


1. Emergency Fund: A company may establish a contingency fund to cover unexpected costs. For example, a manufacturing business may allocate funds for any sudden machinery breakdown or to cover for losses due to an unforeseen disruption in supply chain. 2. Insurance Policies: Insurance is essentially a form of contingency planning. For instance, businesses take out liability insurance to cover any claims made by clients or employees in case of accidental bodily injury or damage. This is a direct application of the idea of a contingency in a finance context.3. Contractual Agreements: Real estate contracts often have contingencies built into them. For example, a buyer might enter into an agreement to purchase a property with a finance contingency allowing them to back out if their loan is not approved, or an inspection contingency that allows the buyer to renegotiate or withdraw in case the house inspection reveals significant defects.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

What is a contingency in finance and business?

A contingency refers to a future event or circumstance which is possible but cannot be predicted with certainty. In finance and business, it’s typically a potential financial obligation or liability that largely depends on a future event occurring or not occurring.

How does a contingency impact financial planning?

Contingencies can greatly impact financial planning. They underscore the need for businesses to maintain ample reserves or insurance coverage to meet unexpected financial obligations.

Can you give an example of a contingency in business?

Sure, a common example of a contingency is a company facing a lawsuit. The potential costs, such as legal fees or damages, that would be incurred if the company loses the lawsuit would be seen as a contingent liability.

What can businesses do to prepare for financial contingencies?

Businesses often set aside funds, known as ‘contingency funds,’ to cover unexpected costs. They may also take insurance policies to mitigate potential losses.

What is a contingency fund?

A contingency fund is money that is set aside to cover unexpected costs that can arise in a business. It’s a form of financial safety net.

How are financial contingencies recorded in accounting?

Depending on the likelihood of the event occurring, financial contingencies can be recorded as liability in the company’s balance sheet, or disclosed in the financial statement notes.

What happens if a business doesn’t have a contingency plan?

Without a contingency plan, a business can face financial strain or, in extreme cases, bankruptcy when unexpected events happen. It’s critical for every business to plan for contingencies to ensure sustainability.

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