When it comes to savings, there are two primary goals for working folks to focus on: emergency savings and retirement savings. Each is important in its own right. Without emergency savings, you risk racking up debt the moment an unplanned bill lands in your lap. And without retirement savings, you risk struggling financially during your golden years, especially since Social Security won't be able to sustain you on its own.
Yet new data from Bankrate reveals that a shocking number of Americans aren't saving, with 21% putting no money aside each month and 20% saving 5% of their income or less. Meanwhile, only 16% save more than 15% of their income -- a threshold we should all be aiming for as far as retirement savings go.
What's equally disturbing, however, are the reasons why Americans aren't saving. Here's what those entail -- and how to overcome them.
1. Too many expenses
A good 38% of Americans blame their lack of savings on too many expenses. If you're one of them, the answer might lie in following a budget. This way, you'll know where your money is going month after month, and you'll have an easier time identifying ways to cut corners. If you don't have a budget yet, you can create one by listing your recurring monthly expenses, factoring in once-a-year expenses, and comparing your total spending to your total earnings. If you're not left with much room for savings, you'll know you'll need to start slashing expenses.
2. Haven't gotten to it
Procrastination is the reason 16% of Americans aren't saving money at present. If that's what you've been struggling with, a good plan is to automate your savings so that you don't have to think about it. If you're short on emergency savings, arrange for a portion of each paycheck you collect to land directly in the bank. If you're ready to focus on retirement savings, sign up at work to have money allocated to your 401(k), or find an IRA with an automatic transfer option. This way, your own laziness won't cause you to fall behind.
3. Don't have a good enough job
The lower your earnings, the more you might struggle to save, and that's the reason 16% of Americans aren't putting money aside on the regular. If you're underpaid, you have two choices: You can try to fight for a raise, or apply for a position that will pay you more. Another option? Get yourself a side hustle. Working a second job guarantees a boost in income, which you can then use for savings purposes.
4. Too much debt
Americans are notorious for racking up debt, and that's the reason why 13% can't manage to save money. If you're in that boat, come up with a plan to eliminate that debt so that it doesn't monopolize your income, thereby forcing you to neglect your savings. To start, look at your various debts, see which are costing you the most as far as interest goes, and pay those first. You might also try consolidating your debt to make it more manageable, or transferring your various debts to a credit card with a lower interest rate. If your credit is good, you may even qualify for a 0% introductory APR on balance transfers.
It's easy to make excuses for not saving money, but the longer you do, the more your finances will continue to take a hit. A better bet, therefore, is to address the reasons you're not saving and take steps to overcome them.