While U.S. savings habits are improving, nearly 50 percent of Americans have no more than $500 in the event of an emergency. If you want to ramp up your savings, every little bit helps. Consider these three rules to jumpstart your savings and start building wealth.
1. Create a budget. Track your expenses for one month to discover how much you really spend. Be sure to track everything, including food, utilities, household items and debt payments. Take your total expenses and multiply it by 6. This the amount of money to aim for saving in your emergency fund.
2. Make household debt your enemy. If you’re juggling credit card, vehicle and mortgage payments, your savings accounts may be starved. And without enough cash to cover emergencies, many people resort to credit cards and lines of credit to cover unforeseen expenses. So, the debt cycle continues. Since you now have a budget, you can see exactly how much debt you have to pay off.
3. Review your income. With your current level of income, calculate how long it will take to pay off all your debt, then build up your 6-month emergency fund. Depending on your financial goals, consider whether it makes sense to start a side gig, or continue upgrading your current skillset, to continue growing your income.
How to stay on track
• Treat your savings like a monthly bill. Once you have an emergency fund, treat your savings as your most important monthly bill. Write a check to your savings account first, or have money automatically deducted from your checking account or paycheck and transferred to your savings account.
• Contribute to retirement accounts. Tax-deferred retirement accounts offer a smart way to save money for retirement. If your employer offers a 401(k) or SIMPLE retirement plan, contribute as much as you can. If your employer doesn’t offer a plan, consider opening an individual retirement account (IRA). The money you contribute to a retirement account can reduce your taxable income and grow tax-free until withdrawn.
• Control your spending. When it comes to saving, think control. For example, control the use of your credit cards. The amount you pay each month in finance charges could go towards savings instead. Also control the use of your ATM card. Get in the habit of giving yourself a regular cash allowance, and try to live with it.
One of my primary objectives is to help you achieve your financial goals through a holistic approach that is tax-efficient in my wealth management and tax resolution practice. For more information, visit www.fredtfoxiii.com.
Fred T. Fox III is a Lawton native who owns his own business.