Resolve to make savings automatic whether we’re in a recession or not
After the Great Recession hit, far too many Americans found themselves without any savings to get through higher prices caused by inflation and the hardships of unemployment. Don’t let this happen to you. Getting into some simple saving habits can help you down the line.
Social Security and unemployment checks are a lifeline to many, but usually not enough to maintain a decent living standard. The rule of thumb for emergency savings is three to six months’ living expenses. Considering the economic slump and the sheer number of long-term unemployed workers, most advisors tell clients to save at least six to 12 months of expenses.
Make Savings Automatic
One way to do this is to set up an automatic deduction program through your employer or bank. You can set up a program that transfers a certain amount from your checking account to your savings. Once established, you can change it, but you probably won’t (because we all get too busy, and it’s easier to keep things as they are). Also, once you learn to plan your finances around the remainder of your paycheck not transferred into savings, you won’t miss the money you saved.
You can also start an automatic increase if you get a raise. This simple strategy is also helpful when saving toward any goal, such as retirement. You can automatically put money away with a 401(k) or similar program, sometimes with an employer matching contribution. The government uses this system by withholding taxes. It takes taxes from your paycheck, and you live on the remainder.
If you pay into your retirement fund automatically, you can save without feeling that pinch of dread when you pay monthly bills.
Make a Resolution
Write down how much you want to save every month. It helps if you also tell someone about your goal. These two steps significantly increase the likelihood that you will achieve your goal. When you have a set plan and a partner to hold you to it, you stay more focused and are less likely to spend money on things you don’t need. When on a dubious shopping spree, you ask yourself, “Is this purchase going to help me or hurt me?”
Americans often boast that they are number one in many things but saving the money we earn would probably be our worst event at the Olympics. American households save less than 5% of their disposable incomes, far less than their less-profligate counterparts in Germany, Switzerland, and Sweden.
We are far better at spending money that we haven’t earned yet. The same lack of fiscal probity is evident on the national level. Our national debt is over $30 trillion – which is more than $91,000 per citizen and almost $250,000 per taxpayer!
If there is a silver lining to the black cloud of the Great Recession from more than 15 years ago, it is that it helped Americans to be more thrifty, put off gratification, and think more about the long-term financial health of their family and community.
People were forced to decline needless, unwise purchases because they didn’t have the access to the credit they had before. As a result, Americans were paring down debts and saving more money.
Let’s get back to that.