World Financial Planning Day presents an opportunity to focus on something everyone around the globe thinks about: ”Am I saving enough?“ No matter their language, country or customs, people want to know how they can enjoy life today while saving for the long-term.
Perhaps one of the first questions people should ask themselves what kind of lifestyle they want to maintain in the future. This will determine, in many ways, how to prioritize savings today.
Fortunately, there are some general guidelines for savings that can help people get started. One such savings rule of thumb is to set aside around 12 percent of an individual’s salary each year. While this may seem like a stretch goal for some, here are three helpful tips to get to that magical number.
- Make Saving Automatic. Many investors in the U.S. have the option of saving money in a workplace retirement account, such as a 401(k) or a 403(b), which makes saving much easier. And automatic 401(k) or 403(b) step-ups allow you to bump up your savings without even having to do anything on your part. Simply sign up with your 401(k) or 403(b) provider and indicate that every January 1st (or any date that you choose) you would like to increase your contributions by one percent until you reach your goal of 12 percent.
- Limit Your Debt. Another way to save is by avoiding too much debt. While these days it is very easy to get credit and borrow money, you must pay all that money back with interest. This can reduce your ability to enjoy and save in the future. It’s important not to think of credit cards themselves as good or bad, they are simply a tool consumers can leverage in today’s financial world of electronic payments. However, make sure you are not spending more money on your credit cards than you can pay off at the end of every month. Ballooning credit card payments can make it difficult to save for your long-term goals.
- Focus on the Small Ways to Save Money. Typically, your biggest monthly expenses are fixed (e.g., rent, mortgage, car payments, student loan payments) and difficult to reduce unless you move or refinance. Focus on the small things like, how much do you spend on coffee, ATM fees, late payment fees or dining out? If your goal is to save an extra $100 per month, you only need to save $25/week. If you can make relatively small changes like those listed above, you’ll quickly reach your goal. Small, incremental savings can make a significant impact towards paying down debt or making progress on a financial goal.
Saving money for the long-term should not make you feel like you are losing out on how you want to live your life. This October 2, in celebration of World Financial Planning Day, consider talking to a CFP® professional about creating a financial plan that may include setting up automatic savings, avoiding too much debt and focusing on the small ways you can save money to ensure you reach your financial goals today and in the future.