Simple steps lead to big saving

One in four Americans has more credit card debt than emergency savings, according to a new poll by Bankrate.com.

Studies show that 21 percent of Americans — 38 percent of those with incomes less than $25,000 — think that winning the lottery represents the most practical way for them to accumulate several hundred thousand dollars.

According to the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC), 64 percent of Americans would have to go into debt or sell off possessions to cover a $1,000 emergency, due to lack of savings.

It’s startling numbers like these that inspired America Saves Week, a national campaign aimed to encourage individuals and families to build wealth by saving money. Because most Americans today are not saving adequately for retirement, and most lower-income households do not have adequate emergency savings for unexpected expenditures, the message accompanying this national movement is needed now more than ever.

It’s no secret that tough economic times can make saving difficult, which is why America Saves Week 2012, running Feb. 19 to Feb. 26, is focused on a simple set of instructions that – if followed – can make anyone a successful saver. The instructions may sound basic, but they are the foundation for financial success: Set a goal. Make a plan. Save automatically.

  • Set a Goal. You can save more by having a goal in mind. Visualizing what you want to save for gives your savings a purpose. You may be tempted to withdraw from your savings if it has no purpose. But once you have a goal in place, you know that taking money out of your savings is taking away from that ultimate goal. So, what are you saving for?
  • Make a Plan. Once you have your goal in place, make a plan of how you are going to save. To start, cut down on your spending and reduce high-cost debt. Next, keep track of what you spend and make a budget. Once you know where your money is going each month, you can cut down on unneeded spending and save the difference. Don’t forget to keep your savings safe, secure, and growing. Banks, credit unions and even the government offer a variety of financial products that can help you save.
  • Save Automatically. It can be hard to put aside money for savings. But there is an easy way to save money without ever missing it. Once you know how much you can save, make saving automatic. Many employers allow you to divide your paycheck into different accounts through direct deposit. Take advantage by putting part of your pay into a savings account. If you get paid in cash, take a small amount to the bank to deposit into a savings account each week.

Knowing what you want to save for, how to achieve it and then making the savings process automatic will allow you to reach your savings goal. Visit AmericaSaves.org to find more information about America Saves Week. There, you can find savings strategies and you can take the pledge to become an American Saver.

Jessica Horton is a former copywriter and community manager at MMI.

  • The Consumer Federation of America (CFA) is an association of nonprofit consumer organizations that was established in 1968 to advance the consumer interest through research, advocacy, and education. Today, nearly 300 of these groups participate in the federation and govern it through their representatives on the organization's Board of Directors.
  • The National Council of Higher Education Resources (NCHER) is the nation’s oldest and largest higher education finance trade association. NCHER’s membership includes state, nonprofit, and for-profit higher education service organizations, including lenders, servicers, guaranty agencies, collection agencies, financial literacy providers, and schools, interested and involved in increasing college access and success. It assists its members in shaping policies governing federal and private student loan and state grant programs on behalf of students, parents, borrowers, and families.

  • Since 2007, the Homeownership Preservation Foundation (HPF) has served as a trusted, neutral source of information for more than eight million homeowners. They are partnered with, and endorsed by, numerous major government agencies, including the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Department of the Treasury.

  • The mission of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is to create strong, sustainable, inclusive communities and quality affordable homes for all. HUD works to strengthen the housing market in order to bolster the economy and protect consumers; meet the need for quality affordable rental homes; utilize housing as a platform for improving quality of life; and build inclusive and sustainable communities free from discrimination.

  • The Council on Accreditation (COA) is an international, independent, nonprofit, human service accrediting organization. Their mission is to partner with human service organizations worldwide to improve service delivery outcomes by developing, applying, and promoting accreditation standards.

  • The National Foundation for Credit Counseling® (NFCC®), founded in 1951, is the nation’s largest and longest-serving nonprofit financial counseling organization. The NFCC’s mission is to promote the national agenda for financially responsible behavior, and build capacity for its members to deliver the highest-quality financial education and counseling services.