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.

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