Building your saving is largely about not very sexy actions. The point where most people fail is just not saving. It isn’t really about learning some tricky secret.
You can find yourself with pile of money without saving; if you win the lottery or inherit a few million from your rich relative via some tax dodge scheme like generation skipping trusts or charitable remainder trusts.
But the rest of us just have to do a pretty simple thing: save money. Then, keep saving money and invest that money sensibly. The key is saving money. The next key is not taking foolish risks. Getting fantastic returns is exciting but is not likely and the focus should be on lowering risk until you have enough savings to take risks with a portion of the portfolio.
My favorite tips along these lines are:
- spend less than you make
- save some of every raise you get
- save 10-15% of income for retirement
- add to any retirement account with employer matching (where say they add $500 for every $1,000 you put into your 401(k)
Spending less than you make and building up your long term savings puts you in the strongest personal finance position. These things matter much more than making a huge salary or getting fantastic investing returns some year. Avoiding risky investments is wise, and sure making great returns helps a great deal, but really just saving and investing in a boring manner puts you in great shape in the long run. Many of those making huge salaries are in atrocious personal financial shape.
Another way you can boost savings is to do so when you pay off a monthly bill. So when I paid off my car loan I just kept saving the old payment. Then I was able to buy my new car with the cash I saved in advance when I was ready for a new car.
Many people seem to fret about how to get great returns or figuring out exactly what they need to save when they should be fretting about saving money. Yes exactly how much you need to save for retirement is hard to judge. Start saving 10-15% and when you are 45, having saved for 20 years, you can get an idea of what adjustments to make. If you don’t want to save 10-15% of your income for retirement at age 25, fine save what you can and just increase that amount with each raise you get.
Jim Blankenship’s post, Let’s Increase America’s Savings Rate in November!, asks for recomendations for increasing the saving rate by 100 basis points (for example, increasing your savings from 8% of your income to 9%). Saving some of your next raise is my favorite practice to succeed in this area.
Related: Smart practices to protect you personal financial well being – Saving for Retirement Has to be a Priority – Don’t Expect to Spend Over 4% of Your Retirement Investment Assets Annually – Easy budgeting