Only 48% of Millennials Have This Key Money Habit

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Saving money is important, but less than half of younger Americans do so consistently.

Millennials are often portrayed in the media as financially reckless, but actually, a large number of younger workers make responsible money-related decisions all the time. Case in point: Millennials, on average, start saving for retirement at age 24, and 59% have $15,000 or more in savings, according to Bank of America's Better Money Habits - Millennial Report

But here's one data point that's not as positive: Only 48% of millennials are putting money into savings on a consistent monthly basis. That means many younger workers max out their paychecks (or go into debt) and neglect their savings. 

If you're among the 52% of millennials who aren't saving consistently, then it's time to rethink that habit -- before it comes back to haunt you.

You need near- and long-term savings

You need money in a savings account for emergencies, because let's face it -- unplanned bills can happen to anyone. Your emergency fund should contain enough money to cover three to six months of essential living expenses. That way, you can dip into it to pay for large expenses like home repairs, or use that money if you lose your job and the paycheck that comes with it.

Once you have a fully loaded emergency fund, you should focus on saving for retirement, and that means funding an IRA or 401(k). There are tax breaks you can reap by contributing to either account, so it pays to review your options and see which one makes the most sense for you. Generally speaking, it's a good idea to save in a 401(k) if your employer offers one, especially if your company matches employee contributions. If it does, that means you get free money for funding your account. Otherwise, you can open an IRA through most banks or financial institutions. 

Ideally, you should aim to sock away 15% of your earnings each month in a retirement savings plan to ensure that you have enough money to pay your bills when you're older. And if you don't get into the habit of saving that money month after month, you'll risk falling short once your career comes to an end.

Get better at saving money

If you're not currently saving money on a monthly basis, a few small changes could be your ticket to increased financial security. First, take a look at your budget, or set one up if you don't already have one in place, and make sure there's room in there for savings. Some people's budgets allow them to spend their paychecks in their entirety. If you're one of them, it's a mistake that could leave you cash-strapped when emergencies strike, or when you're older. If your budget doesn't leave you with room for savings, cut back on existing expenses, whether it means renting a cheaper apartment or spending less on leisure activities. That way, you can bank the difference.

Once you've carved out room for savings in your budget, automate the process so you stay on track. If you need to build an emergency fund, arrange to transfer a portion of each paycheck into a savings account until you're set. And once you're ready to focus on retirement savings, sign up for your employer's 401(k) to have money deducted automatically from your earnings. You can also find an IRA with an automatic transfer feature if that's the account you're using for your long-term savings.

The fact that 48% of millennials save money every month is encouraging. The fact that 52% don't is not. If you're in the latter camp, make changes so you can join the former. Your immediate and long-term financial well-being depends on it.

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