Saving money is a difficult task for many people in America today. The concept of “saving now to be able to enjoy later” is a hard one to grasp, but one that could make the difference between financial disaster and financial freedom in the future.
One of the most prominent groups of Americans who struggle with this practice is the Millennials. These 30-something’s may have graduated years ago and have enjoyed steady employment, but that doesn’t mean they have learned about saving for their future.
A recent study done by Wells Fargo revealed that while 80% of millennials know and understand how important it is to save for the future, only 55% of them are saving anything. It seems as though they comprehend the concept, yet are not motivated enough to act on it. This is, I suppose, similar to someone who knows the risks of cancer from cigarettes, yet they continue to smoke a pack a day.
Why are we not saving money to secure our futures?
This lesson is one learned first hand, as we all have experienced the economic recession of recent years. We have watched millions of people lose their homes, their jobs, their hopes and dreams. They were not adequately prepared for the downturn in our nation’s economy, and because of that have suffered a significant loss.
Millennials may have been the greatest impacted generation of the economy. They came of age and started their adult lives in the shadow of a financial crisis, the bursting housing bubble and at a time when unemployment rates were on the rise. More millennials began their adulthood with more student loan debt than the generations before them, and less hope for a bright future. Many have been forced to take less paying jobs and be satisfied to at least be employed, letting their expensive college educations often go to waste.
Related article: Grieving? You May Have to Pay off Your Private Student Loan
Despite their hardships, there are still ways that anyone can begin saving for their future or even for unplanned emergencies. According to CNBC, more than 25% of Americans do not have any savings put aside for retirement or emergencies. And who makes up the most significant portion of that 25%? The millennials, of course.
So what is the problem with Americans today? Jobs are improving along with the economy, unemployment is declining and we are recovering from the recent financial crisis. It seems that most of us are capable of putting at least a small amount of their income aside in a savings account, yet many do not choose to do so. There may not be any one right answer to this question, but there are several possibilities.
“Why should I worry now about things that won’t affect me until later?”
We are a great nation of people who believe that whatever it is, it can wait. We are famous for our attempts to avoid dealing with unpleasant things until they are so ugly that we are left with no other choice but to deal with them.
This same habit of constantly procrastinating could explain why many people have not even started saving for later in life. First of all, it is precisely that – LATER in life – so why bother thinking about it now?
“I’m not old enough to have to worry about retirement yet. I just graduated from college!”
Many of us may be in denial of the fact that it is time to start saving. As we grow, we watch our parents struggle to work and maintain the family finances, and think to ourselves, “One day I am going to have to do that too.” Many of us do not realize that this magical time in the future started years ago.
Failure to recognize the fact that we are adults now may explain why some Americans have not yet started saving for their future. Even if you don’t have children or a family to care for, you are grown up enough to start saving now.
”How can I put money aside for my future when there isn’t enough money to survive today?”
This is probably the most common and widely used excuse for not saving money. Many of us are working hard and feel as though the paychecks are barely enough to get by, let alone substantial enough to allow for saving. Each month we struggle to pay all the bills, keep a roof over our heads, and food in our stomachs. There isn’t enough money to start saving for things like retirement.
The fact of the matter is that more times than not, it is about making the right choices. If we wanted a newer car or to live in a more expensive neighborhood, we would usually find a way to make it happen. The same can be said for saving for retirement. If we change some of our spending habits today, we will be better able to start saving money for tomorrow.
Don’t know where to start
“I know I should be saving money, but I don’t know where to start.”
Yes, we realize the importance of saving for our futures, and we are ready to start saving but don’t know how or where. This is a great excuse used by many and one that really should not have any merit at all.
Even if your employer does not offer you options to invest in a 401(k) plan, you can still enroll in a retirement plan yourself. You can sign up for an IRA and start saving money that will be tax-free for you to use in the future. If all else fails, open a savings account at your local bank.
No more excuses. Start saving today.
It’s a matter of choice. If you choose to enjoy expensive $5.oo lattes every day and drive a gas-guzzling car, you are wanting to put your money elsewhere rather than into your future. Even the tightest household budget can find some places to save a few more dollars each month that can be put into a savings account. Here are a few ideas to help get you started.
Evaluate your monthly budget
Sit down with all your bills and a pen and paper and figure out what you really need each month to survive. Then look at each category again and figure out what you need to be comfortable. Pick a number between the two and stick to it each month.
Our article How to Create a Zero-Sum Budget should help you set up a real, grown-up budget.
Open a savings account
Go to your local bank and open a simple savings account. It is the simplest way to get started on saving for your future. You don’t have to put much into it at first, but opening an account is at least the first step in the right direction.
Sign up for Direct Deposit
If your employer offers direct deposit of your paychecks, take advantage of it. Another great idea is to have only what you need for bills and daily living (that figure you came up with on your budget a minute ago) deposited into your checking account, and have the rest go into the savings account. If you don’t see the money, you are less often to miss it when it goes into savings.
Take advantage of employer-sponsored savings plans.
This is by far the most significant advantage when it comes to getting your retirement savings started. Most companies sponsored 401(k) plans offer an employer match percentage. This means that for every dollar you put into your account, your employer will match a portion of that dollar with free money also put into your account. This can be the quickest and easiest way to start building a nice retirement fund for your future.
The less you have to pay each month against your debt, the more you will have to put aside in savings. Focus on paying down high-interest loans and credit cards as quickly as possible. By paying these debts off as soon as possible, you can start to see the money going into your savings grow.
One of our latest posts, 14 Practical Tips To Attaining Financial Freedom, includes saving money tips, ways to cut your spending and how to build that much-needed emergency fund.
Some of us are just the kind of people who need to see immediate rewards for doing something we all know we already should be doing anyway. If this is the case for you, enroll in a program that rewards you for shopping or spending your money on things you already buy.
Another similar incentive would be to sign up for an account that helps and encourages you to save for specific goals.
Saving money can be difficult, but it doesn’t have to be. It is a matter of making the right decisions and taking action towards a more financially stable future for yourself. Let’s face it: nobody is going to save for your future as you can. Once you make some simple adjustments in your spending habits, it will begin to get more comfortable and you may not even notice the money going into savings before you had that opportunity to spend it. You have to start the ball rolling.
Jennifer Leonhardi was born and raised on Catalina Island, giving her a unique small town perspective and focus on community. With a degree in Sociology, she now primarily enjoys writing, largely based on her own experiences, on topics such as financial assistance programs, issues concerning the home and family, and socioeconomic trends.