Step-By-Step Guide to Automating Your Savings
Automatic savings is a strategy where you automate fund transfers to your savings accounts, helping you build consistency and achieve your goals. Review your automatic transfers regularly to maximize benefits.
When it comes to saving money, the biggest hurdle for many people is inconsistency. Automatic savings simplify the process of building a financial cushion by ensuring regular contributions to your savings or investment accounts. It also ensures your money goes to the most important places first, keeping your financial goals on track without additional effort. Monitor your accounts regularly and beware of potential pitfalls to get the most out of automating your savings.
Automatic Savings Overview
Automatic savings is a financial strategy in which a set amount of money is automatically transferred from your primary account to a savings or investment account at regular intervals, such as weekly or monthly. You can easily set up automatic transfers online through your existing bank or savings accounts. You can schedule transfers with your pay cycles, ensuring you set aside a portion of every paycheck for future needs. You can also use programs that round up purchase amounts, saving the difference.
Why You Should Automate Your Savings
Automating your savings is a commitment to your future self. Setting up automatic savings ensures consistency in working towards your goals and reduces the hassle of manual transfers. It also safeguards against impulsive spending.
Consistently Contribute to Savings
It's easy to forget to save. With automatic savings, you ensure a regular contribution to your account.
Save Time and Effort
Say goodbye to manual transfers and reminders. Once automatic savings are in place, the process runs seamlessly in the background, freeing you from another task on your financial to-do list.
Prioritize Long-Term Growth
Automation ensures money is saved before you even consider spending it. You can prioritize long-term financial growth over short-term desires by eliminating the choice between saving and spending.
Meet Your Savings Goal
Setting clear financial goals is crucial. Automatic savings simplify contributions, making tracking and achieving these goals easier. You can monitor your progress and adjust contributions by designating specific accounts for each goal and automating deposits.
Harness Compound Interest
Automatic savings in high-yield accounts can help you tap into the power of compound interest. Your savings can potentially grow exponentially over time if you consistently contribute to an account earning higher interest rates.
Build a Saving Habit
Automating your savings lays the foundation for a disciplined financial future. Over time, this habit becomes second nature, solidifying your commitment to financial growth.
Although automation offers numerous advantages, it might not be the ideal solution for everyone. A manual approach might be more effective if you grapple with significant debt as it allows you to allocate funds towards debt reduction after receiving your paycheck.
Types of Savings to Automate
Depending on your financial goals and life stage, there are different types of savings goals you might consider automating.
An emergency fund acts as a financial safety net, ensuring you have funds readily available in an emergency. You can automate contributions to this fund to build a financial cushion steadily. Most financial experts advise having three to six months of living expenses in this fund.
If you want to grow your wealth beyond traditional savings, automate your contributions to investment accounts – whether it's stocks, bonds, mutual funds, etc.
While retirement and emergency funds might be off-limits for immediate use, you can earmark personal savings for short-term objectives. Automating contributions to your personal savings account ensures a consistent approach, one deposit at a time.
Health Savings Account (HSA)
An HSA is a tax-advantaged account to help you save on medical expenses. HSAs offer a triple tax advantage: contributions are tax-free, the money grows and compounds tax-free, and withdrawals for qualified medical expenses are tax-free. Many people even use their HSAs as secondary retirement accounts, allowing the funds to continue compounding until retirement.
How to Automate Your Savings: 5 Steps
Automating your savings is quite straightforward with simple methods, including setting up direct deposit splits for your paychecks or scheduling automatic transfers. The key to effective automatic savings is to have clear objectives, select the appropriate savings account, and determine a feasible portion of your income to set aside.
Set Savings Goals
Start by being intentional in listing all your short-term and long-term financial aspirations. Be explicit about what you're saving for, such as an emergency fund, a down payment or a vacation. Once you've identified these goals, prioritize them based on their urgency and importance. Make your goals quantifiable by determining the exact amount you aim to save and the timeline for achieving it. If you're unsure about specific goals, consider adopting the 50/30/20 rule as a guideline: allocate 20% of your net income directly to savings.
Budget for Each Goal
If you have multiple objectives, create a budget for how much you want to allocate for each, considering their urgency and your specific needs. Consider opening separate savings accounts for distinct goals to streamline your savings further. Some banks even offer the convenience of segmenting your balance within a single account, allowing for organized tracking. Commit to consistently directing a portion of your monthly salary towards these objectives to ensure steady progress. Remember, the beauty of automation is its flexibility. Once you achieve a particular goal, like fully funding your emergency account, you can easily switch or adjust your automatic plan to target another financial milestone.
Pick the Right Savings Account
Select the appropriate savings account to maximize your financial growth. If you don't have an account yet, starting one with your current bank might be straightforward. When comparing accounts, prioritize fees, withdrawal limits, and ease of access. Equally important is the annual percentage yield (APY), which indicates your potential returns from compound interest. For those with diverse goals, consider opening multiple accounts for better organization.
Set Up Automatic Transfers
After securing the right savings account, set up your automatic savings plan. Many employers offer options like direct deposit splits, allowing you to allocate a portion directly to savings or Emergency Savings Accounts (ESAs). You can talk to your HR department to arrange this. Suppose your employer doesn't offer these features. In that case, you can explore bank or mobile applications to help automate your savings, such as Chime, where users can opt to have a predetermined percentage of every paycheck automatically transferred to a savings account. You should also plan your withdrawal strategy, deciding when and how to access your saved funds.
Monitor Regularly and Adjust as Needed
While automation streamlines the savings process, it doesn't mean you should "set it and forget it." Periodic reviews are crucial to ensure your savings are on track. Dedicate monthly or bi-monthly time to assess your savings using online banking or mobile apps. Downloading your bank's mobile banking app can provide easy access and a clear overview of your savings progress. Setting reminders for these reviews can be helpful. Regular check-ins allow you to celebrate your financial milestones and pinpoint areas needing adjustment. If unexpected events alter your financial landscape, adjust your automatic transfer amounts or realign your goals accordingly.
Tips to Boost Your Automated Savings
Like any tool, an automatic savings plan is as effective as the strategy behind its use. You can significantly amplify your financial growth by making informed choices, such as directly channeling your annual tax refund into your savings. Here are tips to help you get the most out of your automatic savings strategy.
Start Small and Gradually Increase
Begin with a modest amount. As you become more comfortable and your financial situation improves, gradually increase your savings. This approach ensures you don't overextend yourself initially and can adjust based on your financial comfort level.
Choose High-Interest Accounts
Maximize your savings growth by opting for high-yield savings accounts. Beyond traditional accounts, consider alternatives like money market accounts and certificates of deposit. Many of these accounts can be opened online or through mobile apps. Monitor the rates since they can fluctuate. Platforms such as MaxMyInterest, or StoneCastle can assist in automating this process.
Utilize Round-Up Savings Features
Take advantage of banking tools that round up your transactions to the nearest dollar, depositing the difference into your savings. These small amounts can accumulate over time, effortlessly boosting your savings. Numerous mobile apps also offer micro-investing features, such as Acorns, Greenlight Max and Stash, turning your spare change from daily purchases into diversified investments in securities like stocks and bonds.
Allocate Excess Savings to Taxable Investments
After ensuring immediate needs, such as emergency funds and retirement contributions, consider diverting excess savings into taxable investments. Excessive cash may yield lower returns, whereas taxable investments generally offer higher gains. Robo-advisors are excellent tools to help automate your investments. Platforms like Betterment, SoFi, Wealthfront and Vanguard are among the top choices.
Consider 401(k) Automatic Escalation
Automatic escalation allows employees to periodically elevate their 401(k) plan contribution rates. For example, suppose you're currently contributing 4% of your salary. In that case, you can configure it to automatically rise by 1% at the end of each year, resulting in a 5% contribution the subsequent year, and so forth. These caps may be revised due to inflation, making it essential to regularly review and implement necessary changes to optimize your retirement savings.
Common Mistakes to Avoid When Automating Your Savings
Certain oversights when automating your savings can reduce the strategy's effectiveness. Here's a list of mistakes to watch out for:
Setting and Forgetting
While automation is meant to simplify the process, it doesn't mean you should neglect regular check-ins. Schedule periodic reviews of your savings accounts to ensure the transferred amounts align with your current financial goals and adjust as necessary.
Not Adjusting for Income Changes
Failing to update your savings contributions when there's a change in your income can lead to missed savings opportunities or potential financial strain. Whenever you receive a raise or bonus or experience any significant income change, revisit your automatic savings settings and consider increasing (or decreasing) your contributions proportionally.
Some accounts or platforms may charge fees for automatic services, which can eat into your savings over time. Always be aware of any fees associated with your savings or investment accounts. It might be worth shopping around for a more cost-effective option if your current fees seem high.
Being Overly Aggressive
Setting your automatic savings rate too high can strain your monthly budget, leading to potential overdrafts or the need to dip into savings. Start with a conservative savings rate and adjust upwards as you become comfortable, striking a balance between saving and having enough for monthly expenses.
Beware of potential fees that might affect your savings. Monitor fees such as maintenance, transfer, overdraft, minimum balance, inactivity and robo-advisor charges.
Always read the fine print and proactively ask about fees when setting up automatic savings. Over time, even small fees can add up, reducing your overall savings. Look for fee-free or low-fee options.
Here are some tools and resources to help guide your automatic savings decisions.
- FDIC: Save, Organize and Streamline Your Finances: The FDIC offers guidance on building an emergency fund and saving for the future through automatic savings programs. It's a valuable resource for understanding the importance of financial organization.
- FDIC: Savings-Related Resources: This page from the FDIC provides information on the significance of saving money, offers tips on saving, and presents various options for managing savings effectively.
- Practical Money Skills Financial Calculator: It provides a comprehensive collection of financial calculators, from budgeting and credit management to savings and retirement planning. These tools assist users in making informed financial decisions.
- MyCreditUnion.gov: Saving and Investing: This resource emphasizes the importance of saving and investing. It encourages individuals to open a savings account at a local credit union and highlights the benefits of making savings automatic.
- MyMoney.gov: MyMoney.gov is a U.S. government website that provides tools and resources to help individuals make informed financial decisions, including tips on saving.
About Nathan Paulus