Most Americans Are Missing Out on This Easy Opportunity to Grow Their Savings

Are you making the same mistake?

Maurie Backman
Maurie Backman
Mar 4, 2019 at 9:49AM
Investment Planning

It's no secret that saving money is difficult. If it weren't, we'd all be richer, wouldn't we? But the savings crisis in America has gotten so bad that the majority of working adults are dangerously vulnerable in the face of emergencies. In fact, 58% of Americans have less than $1,000 in the bank, according to a 2018 GOBankingRates survey. And a big reason for that boils down to not knowing how to effectively save.

Now you'll often hear that following a budget is a great way to keep your spending in check, and that's certainly sound advice. Similarly, boosting your income can lead to better savings, provided you're disciplined enough to sock that extra money away. But if you really want an effective strategy for saving more money, it's none other than paying yourself first with automatic transfers.

Glass jar overflowing with coins

IMAGE SOURCE: GETTY IMAGES.

Unfortunately, most Americans haven't adopted this simple, painless tactic for saving money. In fact, 69% of U.S. adults have not set up automatic transfers from a checking account to a savings account, according to GOBankingRates, even though it's one of the easiest ways to help ensure that savings goals are met.

If you've yet to set up an automatic transfer, log on to your bank's website (or pop over to a physical location, if you're so inclined) and arrange one. It could be just the trick that boosts your savings and puts you in a much more secure spot financially.

Remove the temptation to spend

Many of us have the best of intentions when it comes to saving money. We set up our budgets, cut back on non-essentials, and maybe even write up our financial goals so they stay at the forefront of our minds. But what happens when the temptation to spend out of nowhere strikes? A good 84% of Americans regularly fall victim to impulse purchases, and unless you have an extraordinary amount of willpower, you're likely to do the same.

That's why paying yourself first is so important. If you arrange for a portion of each paycheck you collect to land automatically in savings, you'll effectively remove the temptation to spend it because you won't realize that money is there. In other words, automating your savings essentially involves tricking yourself into banking extra cash -- and that's not a bad thing to do if you've historically fallen short of your savings goals.

Of course, you don't just have to send your earnings into a standard savings account. If you don't have a complete emergency fund, then your first priority should be to build one, in which case you'll want to set up money to filter automatically from checking to a savings account. But if you have a good three to six months' worth of living expenses in the bank, you can instead arrange an automatic transfer to a retirement plan and seamlessly sock away funds for the future.

If your employer offers a 401(k), the easiest thing to do is instruct your payroll department to allocate a certain percentage of your income to your retirement plan, keeping in mind that the maximum contribution for the current year is $19,000 if you're under 50, or $25,000 if you're 50 or older. Once you sign up, that money will be deducted from your paychecks so that you don't need to think about it.

If you don't have access to a 401(k) plan through work, try finding an IRA that accepts automatic transfers. This isn't a given feature for IRAs, but some accounts do let you send money over automatically. And for the current year, you can sock away up to $6,000 if you're under 50, or $7,000 if you're 50 and over.


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No matter what type of account you fund initially, do yourself a favor and automate the savings process, especially if you've struggled to put money away in the past. It's one of the easiest ways to ensure that on the road to meeting your savings goals, you're not your own worst enemy.