According to its annual survey assessing household savings in the U.S., America Saves reports that the nation’s savings rate has declined over the past three years. The number of people who spend less than their income and save the difference, build home equity, have adequate emergency savings, and think they are saving enough for retirement has gone down. Less than half the respondents, 42%, say they have a savings plan with specific goals; and just more than half, 52%, of respondents who are still working think they are saving enough to maintain a desirable standard of living in retirement.
Felicia Gopaul, a certified financial planner and president of College Funding Resource in Bloomfield, New Jersey, says people who don’t save usually wind up scrambling when unexpected expenses rear their heads. “When you don’t save, everything is an emergency,â€ she says. “The car needs tires, something breaks, or your children need money for a trip–the smallest additional expense can throw you into a tailspin.â€
You must pay yourself first. Don’t make excuses, says Gopaul, who tells consumers to carve off the savings portion of their incomes first, before paying the bills or rent. “The bills are always going to be there as an excuse not to save. Think about the safety net that you can create by putting away just a small percentage of your paycheck.â€ One way to ensure that your savings comes off the top of your paycheck is by setting up your savings automatically. Have a specific dollar amount stashed away monthly, and increase that amount every time you get a raise or higher-paying job.
Gopaul says that a good way to save is to put away money in interest-bearing savings vehicles, including money market accounts and certificates of deposit. Many banks and credit unions offer such accounts, including online bankers like ING Direct. You can find the best rates at sites such as www.bankrate.com and www.moneyaisle.com. The idea is to use these savings strategies to help you provide for emergencies, home purchases, school tuition, retirement, and other financial goals.