One of the most difficult personal finance decisions that people face involves figuring out how much they should save from their paychecks each month. While the simple answer is to save as much as possible, people often have tight budgets. At the end of the day, each dollar saved can translate to a lot more money down the line due to compounding, especially if the money is intended for retirement. Still, everyone has different monthly responsibilities, and financial demands can change, which makes it hard to determine a specific dollar amount or percentage of your paycheck that should be devoted to savings. The following are some tips to keep in mind when it comes to determining a monthly savings target:
1. Experts recommend the 10 percent rule.
According to the 10 percent rule, you should put about 10 percent of your income into different accounts on a monthly basis, whether that means a rainy-day fund or a retirement account. People often like this rule because it is straightforward and provides a simple, attainable goal. However, it is worth noting that people who save only 10 percent of their income throughout their lives may feel shortchanged when it comes to retirement. In fact, many experts have called into question the wisdom of this advice. Ultimately, the 10 percent rule is good for younger people, but people should attempt to increase their savings over time—especially as they start to earn more—to 20 or even 30 percent of their income.
2. Live frugally to save as much as possible.
People often wonder if they are saving as much as they can. One way to do this is to make a budget that is almost painful because it is so tight, and then loosen it a bit to have more breathing room. The amount left over at the end of the month should be put into savings. In other words, you need to make sure that you are living frugally rather than wasting money to save as much as possible. When people stop paying attention to how much they spend each month because their budgets are so large, they need to re-evaluate their savings plan. This problem often arises with simple guidelines like the 10 percent rule. If such a rule makes it easy to waste a lot of money, it is not working as it should and people could easily save more.
3. Think about savings beyond retirement.
While most people rightfully consider retirement as the central goal of saving, it should not be the sole reason to put money aside each month. By focusing on retirement alone, individuals may ignore other important goals or begin to become discouraged because they never see the fruits of their difficult savings at work. One goal that is critical is to establish an emergency fund. Some experts actually recommend that people set aside enough money to live without a job for several months before they even begin to put money into a retirement account. However, other goals like a down payment for a house or even a vacation fund are also important and valid. Reaching these goals shows individuals the value of saving and gives them motivation to continue.
4. Automate savings to streamline the process.
One of the best strategies for building a savings account quickly is by automating deposits. Some people will automate their savings so that money is regularly moved from a checking to a savings account so that they can accumulate money without even having to think about it. Other people will arrange to have their paychecks directly deposited across different accounts, including a checking and savings account. Typically, retirement contributions are taken directly from your paycheck, so you need to keep that in mind when you automate your savings. Some newer apps can also help to automate savings to some degree. For example, Acorns is an app that automatically rounds purchases up to the nearest dollar and then invests the change that comes out of those transactions. People will most likely not even notice the extra money missing from their accounts, but can quickly build savings with it.
5. Saving something is better than nothing.
People often become anxious when they cannot reach even the smaller savings goals, such as the 10 percent rule. When this occurs, you may give up trying to save altogether. The approach can prove disastrous in the long run and leave people struggling to catch up on their retirement accounts later in life. Even saving a small amount each month will end up helping you to save a lot in the long run. Plus, saving even a percentage of your income each month will leave room to scale up and can leave you feeling accomplished once you hit that 10 percent goal. Whenever someone gets a raise or some other boost in income, this can be the best time to start saving a little more than before. While it is possible that people will ultimately set their goals too high and need to scale back during these periods, this is an important part of learning how to set goals and evaluate your progress toward them.