Making monthly bill payments, saving for a house, growing college accounts, having enough in retirement funds, even just taking a trip — sometimes there are so many things we need money for that it is hard to keep track. But each goal is important and none of them can be ignored. So how do you manage to achieve it all? Check out some strategies to help you reach your savings targets below.
1. You Need an Emergency Fund
Many financial experts advise keeping three to nine months’ worth of expenses set aside in case of an emergency before you start dedicating your money for other goals. It may seem like this effort slows you down, but the fund can help keep you from taking money from other accounts as well as entering or falling deeper into debt. This is the money for the unexpected that means you won’t have to reach for your credit card or tap into your retirement accounts if the car needs repairs or you are out of work for a few months.
2. To Cover Short-Term Needs
Once your emergency fund is in order, you can divide your needs into short-, mid- and long-term goals. What you will need in the next two years can be considered a short-term goal. You need the money for these goals to be liquid, or easy to access (without restrictions or fees). But you also want to be earning interest on this money, so consider using an investment calculator to see how one-, two-, and three-year investments like savings accounts, CDs and money markets can safely help you maximize your funds.
3. Start on Debt Repayment
Working toward financial freedom is important, but you don’t want to miss out on savings by focusing only on this one goal. It’s a good idea to tally up all that you owe and decide how you want to pay off your debts (in order based on interest rates or the size of the debt balances). It’s important to find the style that works for you.
4. You’re Planning a Major Purchase
You will only have a few of these in your life — like cars, homes, and your children’s educations. Since there are higher price tags and a greater time horizon, it may be harder to keep these goals in perspective and actively work toward them. It’s important to find a way to reach these big goals in a sustainable way that keeps you motivated. There are specific options available for savings goals like education (a 529 plan) so it’s a good idea to do your research ahead of time.
In addition to saving money for a down payment or other financing costs, you’ll want to keep an eye on your credit. Making sure you have a good credit score can save you a significant amount of money over the life of your car loan or mortgage by earning you a lower interest rate. You can check your credit scores for free on Credit.com to see where you stand.
For many people this is a very long-term goal. Years of working and saving for retirement. It’s a good idea to make sure you are doing it in the best way possible to allow yourself to hit your goal. If your employer offers a retirement program, like a 401(k) or 403(b), it’s generally a good idea to contribute up to the limit to get your employer matching dollars. You may also want to consider additional accounts, like a Roth IRA or IRA. It’s important to think about Social Security benefits and consider the tax implications as you are making and working toward your goal.
It may seem overwhelming at times to be saving for multiple goals at once, but the better you can keep your sights on these targets, the more motivated you can stay.
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