You might be tired of hearing about how important it is to save. How everyone needs an emergency stash of cash, as well as longer-term savings for retirement and other goals. But here are a few reasons why you should sit up and pay attention this time.
First of all, you have never been more responsible for your own financial security. A recent Gallup poll found that Americans pick unemployment and lack of jobs as the country’s top problem, which shows how worried people are about the job market. With so much uncertainty about the future of jobs and, as a result, income, Americans have to create their own security by bumping up savings (and creating multiple income streams for greater stability).
Second, if you’re like most Americans, you probably don’t have enough savings. Bankrate.com reported this week that just over half of Americans have more emergency savings than credit card debt, which is the lowest percentage since the site began asking the question three years ago. In fact, 28 percent of survey respondents reported having more credit card debt than emergency savings. Bankrate.com chief financial analyst Greg McBride attributes those disturbing numbers to the difficult job market and rising household costs.
And third, if you launch your savings plan now, you’ll be in good company. America Saves Week, an annual event with more than1,000 participating organizations , officially kicks off next week, and the website americasavesweek.org offers tools and advice for how to create and meet your own savings goals. Katie Bryan, spokeswoman for the program, urges people to focus on saving the first $500, which she says is a key milestone on the way to even bigger savings.
If you’re ready to get started, here are three quick tips that you can apply today:
1. Start small.
The prospect of coming up with $500 (or even more) can be overwhelming. Instead of letting that paralyze you, focus instead on the small steps you can take toward those bigger goals. Perhaps you can find $5 a day to squirrel away, and then you can watch as that money adds up over the weeks.
2. Use tax-advantaged retirement accounts.
If your employer offers matching retirement savings, then signing up for that will immediately power up your savings plans. Even if matching isn’t an option, opening a 401(k) or other type of retirement account that offers tax-advantages can help keep you on track and minimize your tax burden.
If money automatically gets transferred from your paycheck into a savings or retirement account each month, then it can be easier to build up savings without thinking too much about it. You can’t miss the money if you don’t see it in your checking account in the first place. Some bank accounts offer automatic transfers into savings accounts, sometimes with added bonuses as an incentive; see if your bank has this option or if it makes sense to transfer to a bank that does.
[Read: Finding the Best Bank for Your Needs.]
As a side benefit to having stronger finances, you might also improve your romantic life. A December survey of more than 2,000 adults by Yodlee, a personal finance data company, found that more than one in four Americans in relationships say money worries affect their desire to be intimate with their partner. “Stressful finances are often the hardest to understand, and this confusion can cause conflict between couples who might otherwise be able to communicate openly,” says Caroline McNally, vice president of marketing at Yodlee.
What better motivation to get on top of your own savings goals?