Saving money can be difficult. Increasing those savings, year-after-year, can be even more difficult. But saving is necessary to meet both our short-and-long term financial goals. Without savings or some sort of financial cushion, you might be destined to work forever or live uncomfortably.
So what will it take for you to save more this year? Some people start small, saving two or three percent of their salary and that is fine – every little bit counts. However, many of us shortchange our retirement by not finding ways to increase that amount annually. Here are four easy ways to help save this year:
Take up a challenge
All the rage in recent years, the 52-week money saving challenge was pinned, posted, and shared across social networks and blogs to help inspire people to save. Ordinary Canadians, who would typically only post about their vacation and dining experiences, were taking up the challenge and talking about money. Fantastic!
The 52-week money saving challenge is simple: Save $1 in week one, $2 in week two, $3 in week three, and so on until you have about $1,400 saved by the end of the year. Or, increase the degree of difficulty and try to put away $10 in week one, $20 in week two, $30 in week three, and so on until you’ve saved nearly $14,000.
The best variation I have seen is the reverse challenge where savers put aside $52 in week one, $51 in week two, $50 in week three, and so on. The reverse order works well because the bulk of the saving occurs at the start of the year while you are still motivated to save. Added bonus: you will get compound interest working for you earlier.
Find your match
Canadians may be leaving money on the table by not taking advantage of employer-matching retirement savings programs. This type of program, if available, varies by employer but some employers kick-in a percentage of every dollar of your own money that you put into the plan. Ask your employer if they offer any company-funded retirement plans, stock purchase plans or other saving options.
I get it; most of these plans are voluntary and that portion of your salary feels better in your bank account than in some group plan that you cannot touch until retirement. But if your employer offers you ‘free’ money – money that increases your retirement contributions – why not check it out?
Bank your raise
If you do get an annual salary increase – even if it’s just cost of living – here is an example of how to make it work for you:
Most retirement calculators assume you save a fixed amount every year but that number never grows with inflation.
John is 25 and earns $50,000 per year. He can afford to save $250 per month ($3,000 per year) toward his retirement.
The conventional “pay-yourself-first” approach does not assume any increase in that amount over time, and so after 40 years of saving $3,000 per year John will have $120,000 saved for retirement. Not bad.
But how much would John have if he simply increased his savings rate along with his two percent annual raise? It does not sound like much, but it could mean a difference of thousands of dollars more at retirement.
Build on what’s already working
Some of us already have some sort of automated savings plan in place; whether it is a percentage of income that is funneled into our RRSP or TFSA, or monthly contributions to our child’s RESP. Even your mortgage payment is like a forced automated savings plan.
Build on the good things you already have in place. If you can do so without a penalty, increase your monthly mortgage payments. You will easily take a few years off the life of your mortgage – especially if you make a habit of increasing your payments annually.
Keep bumping up contributions to your RRSP, TFSA, and RESP until you start maxing out the annual limits. Once you get there – see if you can catch up on unused contribution room to further bolster your savings.
There is always room to improve our finances each year, but often we become complacent with our savings plans and fall victim to financial inertia.
Find ways to grow your savings every year, whether it is through a fun challenge, by taking advantage of employer and government matching programs, banking your raise, or by simply building on what is already working for you.