Simple Tips to Save for Your Future Many couples are living paycheck to paycheck without any plans for saving. Here are a few tips that will help you cutback and save for your future. BY ELIZABETH LAYNE
Saving money doesn't have to be an overnight success, just a little bit at a time can create great savings.
“ If couples plan and stick to a budget, in most cases they can live comfortably and have funds on hand for uncertain times when income is reduced or interrupted.”
So you live paycheck to paycheck with little left for anything but the necessities? Welcome to the real world. For many married couples, counting the days to payday is a way of life. The notion of saving for a rainy day seems far-fetched. The good news is thatís probably more perception than reality.
If couples plan and stick to a budget, in most cases they can live comfortably and have funds on hand for uncertain times when income is reduced or interrupted.
A general rule is that couples in which both spouses work should have a minimum six months worth of living expenses saved. For couples where only one spouse works, it is nine months. At first blush this might seem like a large amount of money to have on hand, but unplanned events (job loss, medical issues, etc.) may arise, and the financial results can be catastrophic if a couple doesnít have sufficient liquid assets that can be accessed quickly and without penalty.
How can couples ensure that their emergency funds are sufficiently padded? Most should look to cut small expenses to help build their cash reserves. For instance, by eliminating a $5 double-latte, super-mocha supreme every morning and drinking regular coffee (which many employers provide free), a couple could save $50 weekly. That amounts to a couple of hundred dollars a month and a couple of thousand dollars annually. When young couples start thinking about buying a home, itís surprising how quickly the double-latte can become a thing of the past.
Instead of eating out frequently, couples should try cooking at home and brown-bag lunch. Young couples often have monthly restaurant expenses topping $500 or $600. Food isn't the only place couples can usually cut. Look at your cable bill, phone bills, bar tabs, subscriptions, and services you pay for but could accomplish yourself for cheaper, such as yard work. Also, contact your credit card companies and see if they'll lower your interest rate or look to find a credit card with a lower rate you can consolidate your other cards with. If you and/or your spouse are college graduates, most alumni associations have credit unions, which can provide great rates.
While cutting back on spending and consolidating is important for everyone looking to work with a budget, it can provide bigger benefits for young couples than it may for others. The Rolling Stonesí classic song, "Time is on My Side" rings true for young couples. Itís a no-brainer that saving early reaps major rewards: funding a childís college education, the ideal retirement lifestyle, or a dream vacation home. If a 20-year-old saves $1,000 and it earns a 6 percent annual rate of return, those savings will double every 12 years; by age 68, the original $1,000 will be worth $16,000. For couples who have a greater tolerance for risk and who choose a more aggressive investment approach with the guidance of a qualified financial adviser, however, there may be a greater opportunity to build substantial wealth over a lifetime.
For instance, the stock marketís historical returns have been about 10 percent annually, though thereís no guarantee that will hold true in any given year. However, over 20, 30 or 40 years, those that have looked at the long-term potential of the market, and didnít sweat the marketís ups and downs, have enjoyed such returns. The same $1,000 investment we noted above made at age 20 and returning 10 percent annually, would be worth more than $100,000 at age 68!
By cutting back on everyday spending and starting to save early, young couples will soon realize and appreciate how quickly money can and will grow. Simple investment strategies today can ensure that living paycheck to paycheck becomes a thing of the past.
Past performance is no guarantee of future results.
Elizabeth Layne is a Financial Advisor for Merrill Lynch and is based in Atlanta. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.