Although the darkest days of the recession are over, many Americans still have a difficult time saving money.
It doesn’t help that the official poverty rate was last reported at 15 percent, or 46.5 million people, by the U.S. Census Bureau. It’s awfully hard to save when your income for a family of four is less than $23,850 (although it can be done).
So, for the other 85 percent, what’s the problem? It’s definitely not a fear of saving, as revealed by a recent Gallup poll. The results indicated that:
- About 62 percent of Americans enjoy saving money rather than spending it, while 34 percent would rather spend.
- That gap is the widest since Gallup first asked the question in 2001.
Yet a survey conducted for RetailMeNot showed that 1 in 5 Americans have no savings.
The results of another national survey released in February found that:
- 35 percent of Americans said they’re making “good” or “excellent” progress in meeting their savings needs.
- 63 percent said they were making only “fair” or “no” progress.
To get to the root of the problem, let’s take a look at a few of the issues that may be hindering you from reaching your savings goals.
1. You fail to exercise self-discipline
A spending plan is the mechanism by which you control the cash that flows in and out of your household. Although it is a simple document to get you started, two-thirds of Americans fail to take the first step of actually creating one, Gallup found.
Solution: Implement a budget to help tame excessive expenditures so that you will actually have money left over each month to save. Take a look at “How to Develop an Effortless Budget You’ll Stick To” for more detailed guidance.
2. Your financial literacy skills are not up to par
Where did you receive your education about personal finance? Was it from your parents, mentor or the school of hard knocks?
I constantly read about the poor financial literacy rates in the U.S., but fail to understand why so many are surprised at the figures. Unless you grew up in a financially savvy household, enjoy reading self-help books or had a mentor in your corner at an early age, you’ve been forced to figure this thing out by yourself.
Solution: In my opinion, the first step is to make personal finance a mandatory requirement for high school graduation in more than just four states. That way, teenagers preparing to enter the real world will have a working knowledge of the basics, such as banking, budgeting, saving and debt management.
But in your case, you could start with personal finance books. Be sure you consider the reputability and knowledge level of the author before you make a choice.
There are also many fine PF resources, like our own Money Talks News, on the Web. However, seek in-person assistance if needed before your finances overwhelm you. See: “8 Tips to Find Help With Your Debt.”
3. Your income is limited
More money doesn’t necessarily mean a fat savings account, but it can definitely help if you are disciplined with your spending and keep expenses low.
Having a limited amount of income to work with month after month could make things go haywire when an unexpected emergency arises, such as a layoff, medical expense or something as simple as an exorbitant utility bill.
Solution: The first thing you must do is make saving a priority. Compute the minimum amount you need to survive, and apply reductions accordingly to your spending. Be sure to include the amount you wish to save in this calculation, even if it’s only $100 or so per month.
You could also take on a side gig or put your creative talents to work to beef up your income.
4. Debt, debt and more debt!
Unfortunately, debt is easy to get into and practically impossible, in some cases, to get out of, short of bankruptcy.
With the rising cost of living, we tend to charge away instead of cutting back as incomes remain stagnant. End result: Money that could have otherwise been saved is wasted on credit card interest and fees.
Solution: Are you worried that paying off your debt in the most aggressive manner possible will place a strain on your resources? Create a balanced plan and execute. Check out “8 Smart Ways to Pay Off Debt Fast” for a list of ideas.
5. Student loans
You are paying such a large amount of your income to retire student loan debt that you can barely stay afloat, let alone save money.
Solution: Reach out to your lender to see what options are available to you. These may include, but are not limited to, payment modification, consolidation, deferment, forbearance and loan suspension or cancellation. Some of these options merely defer reality, but temporary relief will enable you to stash away cash for a rainy day.
There is no one-size-fits-all solution to the savings dilemma. Once you alter your mindset and spending habits, your savings account will follow suit.
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