The pandemic was hard on our savings accounts, but it’s time to get back on track. Here’s how you can accomplish your goals to do just that before the end of the year.
By: Lindsay Tigar, HerMoney featuring Julia K. Pham, CFP®, AIF®, CDFA®, Wealth Advisor at Halbert Hargrove
Whether you lost a job, changed jobs, found yourself helping out a family member, or had to make an expensive cross-country move, these last two years have been full of the kind of “unforeseen circumstances” that can wreak havoc on a budget. Many of us had to revise our plans, stop saving altogether, or withdraw money from our emergency funds to make ends meet.
Though all of this is to be expected during a once-in-a-lifetime (we hope) pandemic, it’s vital to maintain our stamina with our financial goals as much as we can. However, immediately going into 2022 with enormous goals, even audacious goals — like saving $50,000, or paying down all of your debt in six months — will likely set you up for failure. When we see we’re falling short of these big goals, it can be a confidence-killer and lead us to make poor decisions with our wallets. Instead of starting with our ultimate goal on our to-do list, experts recommend setting realistic and manageable aspirations that we know we can meet. Here are a few to consider, all of which can be signed, sealed and delivered before the end of 2022.
SIT DOWN AND FIGURE OUT WHY YOU’RE SAVING
As with anything in life, knowing the reasons you’re motivated to work toward a goal will help you remain focused, motivated and inspired. That’s why wealth advisor Julia Pham suggests taking the time to soul search and evaluate what financial milestone you dream of reaching. “Everyone is different, so that may be paying off debt, saving for a house, or retirement savings,” she explains. Then, with this in mind, you can start to gradually inch closer to where you hope to be. It can also help create a vision board of your ‘why’ so you can see it every day when you’re tempted to stray off course.
CREATE A BUDGET
One of the most effective ways to add more zeros to your savings account is to track each dollar that goes in, and each dollar that comes out. Many people start keeping a tab on their daily purchases, but then lose track and ultimately find themselves wondering why their cash has seemingly disappeared. To do this, start with how much you would like to save — aiming for 20 percent of your total income — and then make sure your expenses allow you to get there, says Jennifer Dempsey Fox, CFP and president of Bryn Mawr Trust Wealth Management.
If you need to cut back on subscription services or another category of spending to achieve your savings goal, then it’s time to just rip the band-aid off and see if you can live without it. But make sure you’re realistic, Fox cautions. “If you are too aggressive in cutting living expenses, you have made it that much harder to stick to your goals. Track your progress at least monthly and adjust your goal up or down based on your ability to pay your living expenses while saving.”
PRIORITIZE HIGH-INTEREST DEBT
There’s never a better time to get rid of your bad (read: high-interest) debt than right now, says Lauren Anastasio, certified financial planner at Stash. “Eliminating your high-interest rate debt as quickly as possible will save you money and make it easier for you to accomplish other goals in the future,” she explains. And remember, you don’t need to wipe it out completely (in other words, it might not be completely gone by the end of the year) but you should work to create a game plan that helps you to eliminate it as quickly as you’re able. “By prioritizing paying down your debt you’ll be ensuring that you’ll accumulate less interest and have less total to payback than you would if you were to wait,” she adds.
JOIN AN INVESTMENT GROUP WITH OTHERS
There’s strength in numbers. You can join an investment group that allows you to educate yourself on how to invest. We know that more women are interested in investing outside of their retirement accounts, yet too many say they lack the confidence to get started. If that sounds familiar, then it’s time to invest together. This spring, you can join Jean Chatzky, CEO of HerMoney, and Karen Finerman, CEO of Metropolitan Capital Advisors, as they launch “InvestingFixx,” your learn-to-earn investing program. You can build your own portfolio, or follow along, as we build a group portfolio (with HerMoney funds!) together. Fill out this form if you’re interested. We can’t wait to meet you.
AUTOMATE YOUR SAVINGS FOR AN EMERGENCY ACCOUNT
It’s both realistic and essential to have a “rainy day” fund, or as many have called it over the last few years, a “pandemic fund.” This account is where you stow cash for an unexpected expense or event, and if you haven’t bulked your account back up with automated savings (that you won’t even miss) Pham says it’s an excellent savings goal to focus on for 2022.
“Automate your savings using direct deposit straight into the account. Target an amount equal to three to six months’ worth of living expenses,” she continues. “It’s easier to save when it’s automatically done for you, and you don’t have to think about it.”