How to go wrong to save more money
Pour one for your former spendthrift self. In 2022, you will finally become an economic superstar.
Let’s face it, saving money will never be more fun than spending it. But you can make things easier by employing some behavioral economics trading tricks.
The largest ? Automate your savings.
Setting up automatic deposits in various savings vehicles (like mutual funds and old-fashioned savings accounts) eliminates what behavior specialists call “friction” – barriers that can keep you get the job done, says Margaret Bolton, principal behavioral scientist at Duke. Common Cents Lab of the University. In the case of savings, automating the process with deposits tied to when you get paid means you don’t have to actively think about how much to save each month.
“We all lead very busy lives, and automating savings just removes this cognitive burden of putting money aside for the future,” Bolton says.
The New Year is a great time to get on the automated savings train, thanks to what’s known as the “fresh start effect,” says Bolton. We tend to think of calendar landmarks like birthdays and the start of a new year as a separation between our past and imperfect selves from our new improved selves.
Everyone knows it’s hard to keep the momentum going on New Year’s resolutions as January draws to a close. But that’s another awesome side effect of automating savings – since you’ve done it before, there’s no further action you need to take.
“When you have that motivation, a boost from the fresh start effect, it’s time to make a decision, a change that’s going to have a lasting impact for the whole year,” says Bolton.
If you have a working plan, retirement savings are easily designed for automated savings. Start by putting enough in your 401 (k) to qualify for a corporate match.
Then set up automatic deposits to an emergency savings account. You’ll eventually want to rack up up to three to six months of spending, but if you’ve never saved before, try a more manageable starting point – maybe $ 2,000 or 10% of your income.
After emergency savings, focus again on increasing your deposits in a 401 (k) individual retirement account or IRA. Your goal is to work until you save 20% of your income for the future. You can also automate deposits to a health savings account (HSA) if your insurance plan offers one, or schedule transfers to different savings accounts for big upcoming purchases like a new car or a wedding.
Complete your savings makeover by separating your money into different jars with unique names. Part of this mission is done naturally with long-term savings through retirement accounts or education savings accounts, for example.
But you can do it even in a basic savings account. One option is to create individual savings accounts for large compartments; say, the necessary bills, discretionary spending and short-term savings. Or you can go a lot more granular, naming accounts for your emergency savings, your new home fund, your dream vacation, etc. Some banks, including Ally and Capital One (both regularly stand out in Money’s Best Banks rankings), allow you to separate your money into compartments or targets within a single savings account.
This naming exercise makes it easy to see where you stack up against various goals. But it helps in another way: like studies have shown, once we label the money for one purpose, it’s harder to spend it on something else.
And once you’ve paid yourself first, you can spend without feeling guilty about all the money you have left. No temptation necessary.
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