It's hard enough to find the time to do everything we're supposed to do, from flossing our teeth to eating more leafy greens. So it's probably not every day that you contemplate whether your savings plan needs some revisions.
Instead, we often reassess our financial habits when some major life change occurs. A recent retirement survey by A.G. Edwards found that new employment and family situations tend to spark some big changes in our finances.
More than one-third of people surveyed said a job change -- either their first job, a new job, or a promotion -- prompted them to start building their savings. Almost one-quarter of people said a change in family status -- engagement, marriage, separation, or divorce -- inspired them to make savings a priority. Here are some ideas for harnessing these major life events:
Finding your first job. Your first job means your first paycheck. It also means it's time to start preparing for the day when you won't want to work anymore. It's never too early to think about retirement. Check out the retirement benefits at your job and take full advantage of them, especially anything that comes with free money. Ask your new employer whether the company makes matching contributions to your 401(k) account. Consider opening an IRA. Learn more about both in the Retirement Center.
Getting engaged. Popping the big question means you'll soon be taking your first steps toward sharing your life -- including your finances -- with someone else. As fellow Fool Dayana Yochim recently discussed, wedding expenses can add up quickly when you consider things like rings, the ceremony, and the honeymoon. Use the nuptials as a chance to have some heart-to-heart discussions with your sweetie about your financial priorities. Engagement also sometimes prompts individuals to clean up their financial lives before saying "I do." Work on getting out of debt. Start saving for retirement if you haven't already.
Getting married. Marriage means homes, families, and major financial changes. Hopefully, you've already talked to your beloved about your financial priorities. Now it's time to put those goals into action. Start saving for your first home. Build some extra padding into the emergency fund if you're hoping to have children. Think about college savings plans. Work on a combined retirement plan that will let both of you live your golden years in style. For some practical advice, see how one Foolish couple created their own financial manifesto.
Taking a new job. A new job or a promotion can sometimes prompt a major savings overhaul, especially if it comes with better pay or better benefits. You've been living on less money so far, so this makes it a perfect time to bank any extra money coming your way. If you've been struggling under debt, make it your priority to pay that off. Bump up your retirement contributions. You may even start thinking about retiring early.
Getting divorced. Separating from or divorcing a spouse can be an emotionally and financially draining experience. It also leaves you on your own to prepare for retirement and all the events of later life that you had once planned on sharing with someone else. You'll be dividing what might be a lifetime's worth of assets, and trying to figure out whether you'll have enough for the future. It's a time to reconsider your savings, now that you're a single, and make sure you can still meet all your goals. You can survive divorce if you're prepared to take the financial reins and direct your future destiny.
Although life's major milestones cause us to rethink a lot of things, not just our finances, you don't have to wait for a major life change to revamp your savings goals and put more money in the bank. Work on your emergency fund, your debt, and your retirement savings now, so you're better prepared for life's big surprises.