Saving money and setting a budget can be intimidating and overwhelming, but it’s an essential habit to get into if you ever want to break out of the endless of cycle of living paycheck to paycheck. And even though retirement may seem like a lifetime away, it’s something you should be planning for, now.
A recent survey by life insurance company Coventry Direct took a deep dive into the savings habits of people across the United States. They found some interesting trends associated with gender, age, and location. If anything, we can use this as an opportunity to step back and re-evaluate our own saving habits.
For example, the report states that a whopping 21.1% of people say they don’t think they’ll have enough savings for retirement someday. No matter how old you are, you probably don’t want to be working your day job forever. If there’s something you can be doing to put yourself in a better financial position down the road, do it now.
Set Your Priorities
Retirement doesn’t have to be your number one goal. In fact, it’s only the primary saving goal for 31% of respondents. You may also have other priorities, such as homeownership, emergency funds, or paying off loans/debt, all of which were listed as primary goals by a portion of respondents.
Interestingly, women are more likely to prioritize saving for an emergency fund, while men are more likely to prioritize saving for retirement. While the two aren’t all that different – one is looking out for yourself in the short term while the other has the long term in mind – knowing what is most important to you is key in figuring out how and where you should be saving.
Re-Evaluate Your Budget
Step one: if you don’t have a budget, make one. Budgets can be intimidating, especially to someone who’s just starting to manage their own finances or struggling to pay for the basic necessities. However, knowing where your money is coming from and going to will ultimately give you much more control over your finances.
There are a ton of great resources out there if you don’t know where to start. From free budgeting apps to spreadsheet templates and everything in between, there’s something for everyone when it comes to budgeting. As long as it’s more organized than the receipts stuffed in your car’s glovebox currently, you’re already ahead of the game.
You should figure out how much money you want to save and spend, and where you want to be spending it. For context, the majority of Americans (63%) say they save less than 20% of their post-tax income. Keep in mind that you don’t have to put a grand sum of money aside in order to be able to retire one day, just do what you can and gradually build yourself up over time.
Invest, Invest, Invest!
Once you’ve got things straightened out and you have a good sense of your cash flow, it’s time to figure out how to be strategic with it. It’s a matter of personal preference how you will manage your savings, but it’s a good idea to open a 401k or Roth IRA. This is a great way to build up a retirement fund (that will expand on its own) without noticing it.
Again, it doesn’t have to be a large amount that you set aside each month, whatever you can commit to is a great starting point. 22.3% of people are not currently saving for retirement, so even contributing the smallest amount puts you ahead of the pack.
You may also consider alternative investment methods like stocks, bonds, or index funds. Do your research and you’re sure to find something that will help you grow your savings while you sleep!
The bottom line is, take control of your finances. If you’re one of the 21% who believes that retirement is an impossible fantasy, do something about it. It’s never too early – or too late – to turn things around.