The Woodward News

January 16, 2014

Some ways to put money back in savings

Rachael Van Horn
Woodward News

Woodward, Okla. — As of December of 2013, the average American's savings account had roughly $3,800 in it.

And those are the people who even have one.

According to statistics from the Federal Reserve, US Census Bureau and the Internal Revenue Services, a full 40 percent of working Americans are not saving for retirement. Twenty-five percent of American families are not saving at all.

Those figures are dismal when other factors are taken into consideration. For instance statistics show the average American household debt is $117,951 while the average household income is $43,000 per year.

So it's no surprise then, or it perhaps shouldn't be, that less than 18 percent of those surveyed were very confident about having enough money for retirement.

With the primary question, "How can anyone who wants to be a better saver, get started?" the Woodward News went about questioning a couple of local financial experts.

While the savings advice was creative and varied, all the experts agreed that anyone whose company offered a matching 401K benefit should enroll.

To not enroll is to literally give salary or wages back to the employer.

Otherwise, the sky's the limits on creative ways to chuck a little change back and feel more secure.

Don't Be Afraid  to be Creative: According to Lettie Chaisson, a business manager with Community Newspaper Holdings Inc., saving comes easy to some but much harder to others.

For that reason, anyone considering trying to save should be creative and open to what might work best for them.

That means if a Mason jar buried in the backyard inspires you, then do it, she said.

But some people can't stay out of money they hide in the house and there are easier ways of saving that a lot of people are cheating themselves out of by not participating, Chaisson said.

"Of course the first thing I would do is enroll in your company's 401K," Chaisson said. "When you don't take advantage of that, you are leaving money on the table that the company is literally giving you."

But for those who perhaps don't have a company sponsored 401K, saving money can be as easy as opening a savings account.

She suggests creating an automatic draft from your checking for an amount  you can afford and then never getting into it or even looking at it.  

For those who can create an automatic draft to their savings account, Chaisson advises strongly against attaching your savings account to your checking account.

"It's just too easy then, to get into it when you see something you want," she said. "If you keep the savings account separate, it requires more work to get into the money."

Saving money does really come down to good old fashioned discipline, but it need not be that painful.

There are ways to make it fun and challenging, she said.

"Let's say you have a manicure every week," she said. "So you save the money on those manicures because you don't do them every week and then at the end of a month or two months, you plan a spa day."

In this way, Chaisson said, you are still saving money in the long-run but you have a reward system in place - a goal to reach and a reward to celebrate that goal.

"Look, you have to find ways to reward yourself," she said. "You are working too hard for your money not to at least enjoy it a little bit while you are trying to reach a goal."

Understand and Visualize How Saving Money Will Impact Your Future: According to Alexa Humphries, understanding how having a savings account - even a small one - makes you feel about your life, is key to keeping the trend going.

Among investment services she provides, Humphries helps those who want to make a budget and get in control of their financial futures, to do so.

"But you can only learn that feeling by starting one (a savings habit)," Humphries said. "That really goes down to the whole discipline of a monthly savings habit, whether it is a savings account or investing. This is where, right when you get paid, the money is out of your hands and into that account."

Humphries said it doesn't take long for that feeling of pride to grow.

"When you are seeing those accounts grow over a period of time, It is self reinforcing," Humphries said. "I think the big misconception for a lot of people is that they think they have to have a big amount of money and they want to wait till they have a bunch of cash before they jump in. But time is on your side. The best thing you can do is start as soon as you can."

So for those who only have $25 per month to spare, no problem, Humphries said.

"No matter how little you make, it is surprising, when you write it all down, how much there really is left over," she said.

One of the programs Humphries offers small investors is called the Dollar Cost Averaging Program. It has a minimum of $25 monthly investment, which is automatically drafted out of your account.

"Once you see how this works, most people say 'Gosh, I didn't feel that at all,' and then they increase it," she said.

Humphries urges people to avoid prejudging their ability to save based on how little they make.

She added that there are people who make a lot of money who insist on spending every dime, and those are the people she cannot help.

"If you are motivated to save, those are the people I can help," she said.

For more investment information, call Humphries at 256-2249 or long onto www.edwardjones.com/articles.