Nearly everyone wants to save more money, but it's not easy when you're on a tight budget and have a long list of bills that need to be paid. It may be tempting to push saving to another day, when you're earning more money or have fewer bills. However, that day may or may not arrive, and the longer you wait to start saving, the harder it will be to catch up.
However, it's easier than you may think to save more now, even if you don't have a lot of cash to spare. It comes down to one simple thing that will set you up for future financial success.
Why planning is the key to your financial future
Only 28% of Americans have a written financial plan, according to a survey from Charles Schwab. However, of those who do have a plan, 63% say they feel financially secure.
The reasons why most people aren't planning for the future vary. Nearly half (46%) say they don't have enough money to create a financial plan, the survey found, 18% think coming up with a plan is too complicated, and 13% say they don't have time to create one.
Regardless of the reason why you may not have a financial plan in place, it can make a big difference when it comes to your savings.
Nearly 80% of those who have a written financial plan are able to pay their bills and save each month, compared to just 38% of those who don't have a plan. Also, 74% of people with a plan automate a portion of their income to go directly to their savings each month, while only 25% of those without a financial plan do so.
By creating a financial plan, you'll not only establish a long-term goal, but it can also make it easier to save each month. Instead of blindly setting aside what you can and hoping it's enough, you'll have a monthly goal to aim for to achieve success.
How to create a successful financial plan
Your financial plan depends on the goals you're trying to reach. Saving for retirement is one of the biggest (and most challenging) financial goals, so it requires the most planning.
The first step to creating a retirement plan is to set a saving goal. How much you need to save for retirement is highly dependent on your individual situation, including how many years you expect to spend in retirement and how much you plan to spend each year. Run your numbers through a retirement calculator to get an estimate of how much you'll need to save, as well as how much you should be saving each month to reach that goal.
Also, don't forget about how Social Security benefits will impact your retirement savings. By creating a my Social Security account, you can get an estimate of what you'll receive in benefits based on your current earnings. While your benefits alone probably won't be enough to cover all your expenses in retirement, they can certainly help some -- and the more you know about how much you're set to receive in benefits, the more accurate your financial plan will be.
Once you have a goal in mind and know what you should be saving each month to achieve it, write it down. When you write down your goals, you're more likely to achieve them than if you simply think about them, a study from Dominican University of California found. Writing down your goals and the action steps you're taking to reach them helps hold yourself accountable, ensuring you'll stick to your plan long-term.
The most comprehensive financial plans also look at your overall financial health, not just savings. For instance, if you're in debt, you should ideally have a plan in place for paying that down. An emergency fund is also important, because unexpected expenses will inevitably pop up -- and they could potentially throw off your entire plan if you don't have the money set aside to pay them.
Whether you decide to create a financial plan on your own or with the help of a financial advisor, having a strategy in place for managing your money can make it easier to save for the future. No matter what you're earning or how much you have to save, a solid financial plan is always a good investment.