How are you going to make 2016 meaningful and awesome—the best year yet?
Perhaps you set a goal for yourself to get better at saving. I don’t just mean saving money by making more frugal choices. I’m referring to saving money for the future—for emergencies, for school-related costs, even for retirement, if you’re blazing the trail of postgrad life and your first job.
Here are some tips for becoming a superstar saver in 2016:
1. Start by setting goals. Whether it’s putting $100 per paycheck into savings or saving $2,000 by the end of 2016, having a concrete, specific goal that you can work toward will really help to set the tone for saving moving forward. Make sure the goal you set is realistic so you don’t get discouraged and fall off the savings wagon.
2. Pay yourself first. What does that mean? Before you panic about paying rent, utilities, student loan bills, and more, make sure you set aside a little bit for savings—no matter how small. One thing that helps is to put the money in an account where you’re less likely to see it or think about it. Many experts recommend opening up a savings account separate from your checking account so you’re not tempted to draw from it regularly just because it’s easy to access.
3. Set up an emergency fund. Aim to have enough to cover three to six months of expenses. That would include everything from rent to groceries, utilities to car repairs. Start by saving enough to cover three months of expenses, then gradually work your way up to six months. This will give you a great cushion in case you ever lose your job, have a medical emergency, wreck your car, or any number of other terrible circumstances that we hope never happen to you.
4. Strive for 15%. Are you brand new at your first Real World Job and trying to figure out the whole “retirement savings” thing? It’s easy to just go with whatever the default option is when you first set up your 401k. Many folks suggest that 15% is a great goal to strive toward for your savings rate. If you can’t start out saving 15% of your income for retirement, then start with whatever is reasonable for you (try to at least contribute enough to get your full employer match), and then add one or two percentage points per year until you reach that 15% mark. Keep in mind you should prioritize your emergency fund above your retirement savings. Those emergency savings are crucial.
5. You don’t need to be an expert. There’s so much to learn with retirement saving and investing, but don’t let that scare you off! Even starting small will put you ahead in the long run, especially compared to doing nothing because you were too daunted by all the options.
6. Ask for help. You don’t have to do it alone. There are tons of amazing personal finance blogs with great advice out there. Plus, parents, friends, professors, coworkers, financial aid counselors, and tons of other people are out there who would love to help you figure out your financials as you forge ahead in the real world.
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