This article appears in May-June Family magazine.
Despite an improving economy, Americans still find it hard to save money. A new survey by Bankrate.com finds that 21 percent of working Americans report they aren’t saving any money at all and only 1 in 6 are saving the minimum 15 percent of their income that most experts recommend.
Not only is the statistic shocking, it’s also disturbing because we’re in the midst of the tightest labor market in the last 50 years, said Greg McBride, chief financial analyst at Bankrate, a personal finance website.
“More people are working and they’re making more money, but they’re not saving,” he said.
Who is (and isn’t) saving
Annual Bankrate studies have found consistent results over the past few years, with around 20 percent of people saying they are not saving at all, McBride said.
Many of the people who are saving are not saving adequately. Less than half (48 percent) of people said they are saving, but not more than 10 percent of their income, the survey found. Most financial experts recommend putting at least 15 percent of income into savings, McBride said.
Sixteen percent of people say they simply haven’t gotten around to saving, which McBride calls “a lousy excuse.” Twenty-two percent of millennials surveyed feel this way.
Saving money requires not only self-discipline but the ability to acknowledge the importance of putting money away when pressing issues like food and housing and even future priorities such as college expenses loom large. Having too many expenses is the most common reason for not saving, given by 38 percent of respondents. Too many expenses was the top answer among every age group, income level and Census region, and was highest for parents and residents of the Midwest and Northeast.
Millennials (ages 23 to 38) and Gen Xers (ages 39 to 53) struggle with saving the most and were more likely to save less than 10 percent of their income or nothing at all.
People 55 and older were more likely than other age groups to be saving more than 10 percent of income.
Tips to save more
From cutting back on dinners out to relocating to a smaller home, there are numerous ways to save more money. At the top of McBride’s list is automatic payroll deduction.
“Setting up payroll deductions that go directly from your paycheck to a dedicated online savings account for emergency savings and a workplace retirement plan or an IRA for retirement savings is the most effective method to save more money,” McBride said.
Another saving hack is to consider the two months a year when workers earn three rather than two paychecks.
“Every other month you live on two paychecks, so take the opportunity to save those entire paychecks,” he said.
Even little bits of savings make a big difference. Save your spare change in a jar, then take it to the bank. When you earn coupon or refund savings, don’t spend them. Save them and do it immediately.
“Pull out your phone, log in and add [it] to your savings account,” McBride aid.