About 58 percent of Americans have less than $1,000 in personal savings, according to a recent survey by gobankingrates.com. If we think about all the federal employees impacted by the current government shutdown, that means six out of 10 will likely experience financial difficulty due to this interruption in their incomes and lack of savings. A government shutdown is rare. Still, it is a powerful reminder to us all to be prepared for unexpected loss of income or large expenses. Consistent saving is a vital habit.
Having an emergency savings account (for things like a broken water heater, automobile repairs or unplanned medical bills) can save you a lot of anxiety. It can save you hundreds of dollars, as well, since late fees for credit cards, car loans or utility bills often run $30 or so per month. Having an emergency reserve will also help you maintain a good credit score during challenging financial times.
When speaking to young adults, I often recommend they keep $1,000 to $1,500 as a minimum target for a checking account. Adults with children or additional financial responsibilities should set a higher reserve target. The savings not only helps in an emergency, it helps you avoid monthly bank fees that can add up quickly. If you can set aside $20 per week (only about $3 a day), you will have accumulated $1,000 by the end of the year.
Once you have your emergency fund in place, you can focus on your retirement savings. Setting up an automatic deposit from your paycheck into a retirement account is one of the easiest ways to save money. That money never reaches your checking account, so it is less likely to be spent. For 401k contributions, start with 5 percent of your salary or enough to receive any company-matching contributions. After a few months, you will hardly miss the smaller amount going into your checking account.
Consistent saving is a vital habit that lasts a lifetime. Taking that first step is important. According to US Census data, the median household income was $60,336 in 2017. For a typical 40-hour work week at that income, $5 is equivalent to about 10 minutes. Wouldn’t investing just 10 minutes (or $5) a day be a worthwhile investment in yourself?