If you listened to your parents' lectures, you know money doesn't grow on trees. But it can grow in your bank account. That's why saving should be at the very top of your financial to-do list.
Where do I start?
Creating an emergency fund and saving for retirement should come first. Once you’ve locked down a plan for those goals, it’s time for the fun part.
Not sure ‘fun’ and ‘savings’ belong in the same sentence.
Hear us out. Thinking about things like where you want to live, what you want to own, and where you’ll vacation in the future is fun. And saving is how to make those dreams your reality.
Picture yourself running sh*t as your own boss by 2021? Talk to entrepreneurs in your network to get an idea of what startup costs look like. Think you want to own a home in four years? Do some research on prices in your area now to figure out a good down payment goal.
Once you’ve decided what you want, when you want it, and what it’ll cost, you can do some easy math to come up with a monthly savings target.
Got it. What’s next?
Picking the right accounts. You’ll probably want more than one. Here are a few options:
Savings account: perfect for money you need soon-ish, like your rainy day fund or cash for an upcoming bachelorette weekend or holiday gifts. Pro tip: See if your bank lets you create free sub-accounts. Having a specific account for each goal makes it easier to see what you’ve saved and keeps you honest about not borrowing from one goal to pay for another. And shop around online for interest rates. The avg US savings account pays .10% in interest, but you can find some paying over 2%.
401(k), IRAs and other retirement accounts: for money you’ll live on after you stop working. Don’t touch it till then. In most cases, you’ll pay penalties for withdrawing it early.
529: where you invest money for future education costs so your kids’ college tuition doesn’t make you go broke. You can make qualified withdrawals totally tax-free.
Brokerage investment account: for goals at least a few years away. Unlike a retirement account, you can sell investments whenever you want, penalty free. Taxes may apply. Just keep cool if your investments fluctuate along with the stock market. That’s normal. Over the long term, stock values on the whole have always gone up. A longer investing timeframe lets you ride out those short-term ups and downs.
When do I actually start saving?
Now. Take a look at your bank account and recent credit card statements to spot some places to trim your spending. Feel free to start small. It all adds up. Cutting out one $10 Uber every week will add up to over $500 in a year. Ultimately, experts recommend saving up to 20% of your take-home pay across all goals. But saving anything is a good start.
Set up automatic transfers from your paycheck or checking account, so you’ll never forget to save or accidentally spend that money on something else. And think about hanging up a photo that represents your goal — a home, beachy scene, whatever motivates you — to remind yourself why you’ve decided to save money instead of buying more wine.
Setting savings goals is how you’ll afford the life you want. And a big part of saving successfully is knowing what your goal is and the shortest, safest path to getting there. Your future self and bank account say thanks.