Future Planning

The Ultimate Guide to Saving Money, Part 1: Why You Should Save Money

BY Due TIMEApril 3, 2022 PRINT

Your work pays your bills. That’s its first job you need to earn enough to pay the rent, put food on the table, and keep the lights on.

After you’ve met those essential obligations come other, near-essential expenses: a car, insurance, and entertainment.

As earnings increase the first change is in the quality that those expenses bring. The apartment becomes bigger. The food becomes better. The car is newer and shinier. Entertainment stretches from a cinema and popcorn to a trip to Cancun.

At that point, the issue of how to spend money changes. Once you can afford to make choices, one of those choices becomes not spending money. You can put it aside and save it for a rainy day. That money-saving switches from a luxury that would be nice to have to an essential that any responsible adult makes sure that they have.

Spending money is easy. There’s no shortage of stores and advisors keen to offer advice about how to spend your money and what to spend it on. Saving money, though, is harder.

A survey by FINRA, a financial education foundation, found that almost one in five Americans spent more than they earned in the past year, and almost half lack a rainy day fund. Thirty-five percent of people with credit cards paid only the minimum during some months during the last year. It’s a choice that allows expensive debt to build. Most worrying of all, little more than one person in three was capable of correctly answering four out of five questions on a basic financial literacy test.

The test asked simple questions about the cumulative effect of interest rates, inflation, and mortgage rates.

The lack of financial education is scandalous but perhaps it’s not surprising. While most states now offer—and some even require—a financial literacy course for high schoolers, the lessons can feel moot. For teenagers without an income (and without expenses), let alone savings, talk about the relationship between interest rates and bond prices can feel academic. When they’re counting their dimes so that they can buy a new video game, long-term savings plans and investment strategies just aren’t important.

By the time that savings information does become important and relevant though, it’s too late. There are few ways for adults to obtain the financial literacy they need. The result is that too many people don’t know how to save.

And yet, saving money is one of the most important activities adults need to perform.

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Why You Should Save Money

Saving money isn’t a luxury. It’s something that everyone must do once they can afford to pay the rent and feed themselves and their family. There are five reasons for putting aside money from each paycheck, and keeping it safe.

Save for a Rainy Day

The most important reason to save is to ensure that you have a safety net. Outgoings are guaranteed. You’re always going to have expenses. You’ll always have to eat and find shelter.

The same though isn’t true of income.

Your employer could suffer cutbacks. Your clients could end their relationships. You can lose your job at any moment. And you have to assume that you will.

Unless you have a guaranteed income from some other independent source, you have to live with the assumption that at any time, your income could stop. And it might not start again for a long time.

According to figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median duration of unemployment between January and May 2021 ranged between 15.3 and 19.8 weeks. Less than a quarter of people who were looking for work in April 2021 had been unemployed for less than five weeks. More than 55 percent had been unemployed for at least 15 weeks, and 43 percent for at least 27 weeks.

That’s half a year without an income. Or to put it another way, almost half of unemployed people in America in 2021 had been without work for at least a week longer than the maximum unemployment compensation program.

There’s no question that COVID-19 made it harder than usual for people to find new jobs in 2021, but how long could you last without an income? Are you confident you could find a job before your benefits run out?

Save money each month, and you’ll have the cushion you need to see you through a sudden loss of income. You won’t need to beg friends or family for help, and you won’t need to take the first job that comes along to be sure that you can pay the rent.

student graduation
A graduating student wears a money lei, a necklace made of US dollar bills, at the Pasadena City College graduation ceremony, in Pasadena, Calif., on June 14, 2019. (Robyn Beck/AFP via Getty Images)

Meet Unexpected Expenses

In 2018, a paper from the Federal Reserve reported that 40 percent of American adults would not be able to cover an unexpected expense of just $400. Either they’d have to borrow the money or they’d have to sell something. Or they wouldn’t be able to cover the cost at all.

That means that almost half the adult population of the U.S. are just one fender-bender, veterinary bill, or broken boiler away from a serious financial problem. And those are things that happen every day.

What makes unexpected expenses unexpected isn’t that they happen. It’s when they happen.

If you’re driving an old car, something will eventually go wrong. If you have a pet, it will be sick and old one day. Homeowners know that washing machines eventually break down. Computers become slower with age. Mobile phones get lost or stolen.

You can’t know when those sudden expenses will hit you. But you can expect that they’ll hit you one day. You need to be ready when they do. You need to have enough set aside so that unexpected costs don’t knock you down. They might be painful and annoying but they’re a part of life.

Buy a Home

Buying your own home isn’t right for everyone. Renting property can increase mobility: it’s much easier to take a higher-paid job on the other side of the country if you don’t have to sell your home first.

Renting can shift many of the responsibilities for the building onto the property-owner: leaky roofs and termite nests might be your problem but someone else has to implement the solution. And owning a home isn’t always a great investment. Homes have expenses, and property prices don’t always rise. The money that you put in the walls might do better somewhere else.

But there are plenty of advantages to owning your own home too. Instead of paying rent to someone else, most of your mortgage payments stay with you. You’re not at the mercy of a landlord who doesn’t have your interests at heart. And above all, the property is yours. It’s your home.

Before you can put a foot on the property ladder though, you have to save. The minimum you can get away with is about 3.5 percent, but more realistically you can expect to have to save at least 5 percent of the price of the property, and usually much more.

And you should pay more. The bigger the deposit you pay, the less interest you’ll have to give to the bank.

If you’re planning to own your own home, you will need to save—both to buy a better home, and to buy that home for less money.

Epoch Times Photo
A general view of properties at North Lakes in Brisbane, Australia, on June 10, 2016. (Glenn Hunt/Getty Images)

Plan Your Retirement

The money you save will see you through bad times and ensure that you make it through emergencies. You’ll also need to save to buy those big items that require large down payments. But at some point, you’re doing to want to stop earning money and focus entirely on enjoying yourself. You’ll want to retire.

Putting money aside for your retirement must be an essential part of your saving plan. It might not feel like a part of a saving plan. You’re not saving money that you’re going to be able to use any time soon. In fact, most retirement plans will impose both taxes and penalties if you crack open the account early. But you are choosing not to spend money today in order to be able to spend it one day in the future—when you need it more.

The good news is that saving for retirement is easier than other forms of saving. There’s no shortage of plans, from 401(k)s through annuities to IRAs, that make saving automatic and even tax deferred. The key is to make sure that you’re signed up to at least one plan and that you’re making the most of the opportunity that saving for retirement offers. Sometimes, you can even increase your salary by agreeing to save more for the future. If your employer offers matching contributions, you should take all of the contributions on offer. Anything less is leaving money on the table—and in the hands of your employer.

Make Your Money Work

The difference between those with wealth and everyone else is that while everyone else works for money, the wealthy let their money work for them. They put money aside every month, invest it, and let compound interest do its thing.

Let’s say you started with $100 from your first job. Each month, you save another $100 and you put it in an investment plan that pays five percent a year. After 20 years, you’ll have saved $24,000. But the effect of compound interest means that you’ll actually have $41,374 in your account. You’ll have saved $100 every month and that money will have earned $870 every year. After 20 years you’ll be more than $17,000 better off.

Making that compound interest isn’t as easy as it used to be. Interest rates are low at the moment. A savings account at the bank won’t pay more than 0.05 percent a year. That’s lower than the rate of inflation so there’s little sense in putting the money there, other than to keep it safe. But there are other options from bonds and shares to real estate and retirement funds.

They each have their advantages and disadvantages, and they each come with their own set of risks. You’ll have to weigh up those risks as you come to make your decisions. But what they’ll all do is make sure that your money works for you so that you can work less for money.

What You’ll Find in This Guide

This guide is not an investment manual. We’re not qualified to provide investment advice or tell you where to put your money. What we can do is tell you how to save your money, and suggest some places you can put it when you save it.

Before you invest your savings, though, you should take professional advice.

We’ve divided this guide into two parts.

This special management account will help you hold yourself accountable for saving. (Prostock-studio/Shutterstock)

In the first part, we talk about strategies for saving money.

Putting cash aside each month isn’t straightforward. It requires discipline and a habit, an awareness of how much you’re spending, and an understanding of the benefits of saving.

We’ll talk about how much you should save and how to track your spending so that you don’t save too little. We’ll discuss debt because owing can be the opposite of saving. There are some debts that you will need to clear before you can start creating a surplus.

We’ll also explain how to make cuts that will increase your pot, and set a goal to meet your target.

In the second part, we’ll discuss some of the places you can put your savings so that they grow. We don’t offer an exhaustive list or try to tell you which are the best places for you. Everyone’s priorities will be different. But we do want to show the breadth of the different options available once you have savings set aside.

In the following articles, we will talk about how to save money (click), track your spending (click), the right place to put your savings (click), and retirement funds (click).

The Epoch Times Copyright © 2022 The views and opinions expressed are only those of the authors. They are meant for general informational purposes only and should not be construed or interpreted as a recommendation or solicitation. The Epoch Times does not provide investment, tax, legal, financial planning, estate planning, or any other personal finance advice. The Epoch Times holds no liability for the accuracy or timeliness of the information provided.

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