9/12/2012 12:30 AM ET|
How to save your first $100,000
There's more than one way to reach a financial goal like tucking away 6 figures. In fact, it’s easier if you combine several strategies.
These past few years have highlighted uncertainty. Everything that we thought would be rock solid came crashing down. Financial institutions, companies and countries have all stumbled and are struggling to get back up. Even the weather has been highly erratic. It's not at all unusual to worry and wonder how you will weather the storms that enter your life from time to time.
Financial stability, apart from being able to pay unexpected bills, fund your child's education or save for your own retirement, gives consumers the confidence and strength to go through everyday life. By saving money and increasing your income, you can move toward earning your first $100,000. And once you do that, the way to the next $100,000 can become easier.
Develop the right mindset
Saving your first $100,000 is neither quick nor easy. To get there, you need to start by training your mind. You need to understand how to achieve this goal and plan accordingly. If you are the kind of person who rarely notes your expenses or budgets, now would be the time to start. All actions need to be oriented toward achieving this goal. You could start saving money by kicking that daily Starbucks habit or taking a bus to work. If you understand that these are minor sacrifices toward a little less financial uncertainty, the going will be smoother.
Create short-term saving goals
It's all very well to imagine yourself living in a comfortable country home when you retire, but that may not get you going for now. Break down your overall saving target into short-term goals. They could even be weekly goals. For example, a man who ran a dry-cleaning service decided he would take some small change every day and put it in his daughter's college fund, starting when she was 5. This did not hinder his business or his day-to-day life, and he had a tidy sum by the time his daughter was ready to go to college.
The earlier you start, even with small amounts, the sooner you'll know you've started covering some distance in a long journey. This will help keep you motivated to achieve longer-term goals. Savings accounts, certificates of deposit, money market funds and government bonds are all good short-term instruments for savings, even if the interest rates are low. A savings account is particularly useful for an emergency fund.
Save on taxes
If you are working and your employer offers a 401k tax-deferred saving plan, take advantage of it. The amount you contribute to the plan and the earnings are tax-free until you pull out the funds for retirement. The percentage you contribute reduces your taxable pay by the same percentage. Early in your career, you can invest in stocks aggressively, when you can afford to take on some investment risk. If your employer does not offer a 401k plan, you should definitely set up an individual retirement account. Earnings in an IRA are also tax-deferred until withdrawal (unless it's a Roth IRA, where withdrawals are tax-free). To enroll in either a 401k or IRA, all you have to do is fill out a simple form and contribute. This is a structured way to save, where the interest is compounded -- and with tax savings to boot.
Reduce your interest burden
We want it all. We want the nice home, car, home theater system and double-door fridge. And with a few easy keystrokes online, we can have it. But instant gratification has a hefty price that could take years to repay. Prioritizing debt and reducing it is the first critical step toward saving. Take a close look at all of your loans, and calculate how long it will take you to whittle them down. If you have savings or fixed-deposit accounts and they're earning less in interest than you're paying on your loans, consider using that money to reduce or cancel your debt burden. If you get a bonus or a dividend, think about applying part of your mortgage to reduce your interest payments.
In the case of credit card debt, contact the issuer and negotiate a lower rate if possible. In their pursuit of new customers, card companies sometimes offer to take on other credit card debt at a lower interest rate. If you need to take out a loan, shop around carefully, and borrow money at the lowest interest rate you can find. You'd be surprised how many people don't do this. Ask friends and family members who might be willing to offer interest-free loans for a short period.
Take advantage of employee benefits
Consider how your employer can be your partner in your savings goal. Many employers match contributions to 401k plans. Contribute to the plan aggressively. Avail yourself of any additional benefits your employer may offer, like special store and activity discounts and coupons. Be sure to sign up for the company health plan. If your employer provides assistance for upgrading your skills or "back-to-school" programs, make use of any education and training that can help your career.
Generate additional income
In addition to saving strategies, generating revenue is the other tactic that can help you reach the $100,000 goal. Do you sew, do some other craft or teach? Hobbies and other personal interests can bring in extra money. You could tutor children for a few hours, or sell your crafts at a weekend market. You could spend some time researching stocks to invest in or do freelance work. Don't let any of your skills or talents go to waste. They will help you earn more money and keep you fulfilled as well.
Keep costs low
There are always things you can do to keep your costs down. Make more dinners at home instead of eating out, walk short distances rather than taking the car, read online rather than paying for magazine subscriptions, take your kids to the park or zoo instead of the local mall, buy your groceries in bulk for the month, stop smoking, take lunch to work, keep your car until it can't be used anymore, or buy a house within your means (or rent). If you aren't using that gym membership, don't renew it. Recycle and reuse, use alternative energy to light and heat your home, and sell possessions you don't use. There are many ways to save in everyday life, and those dollars and cents will add up, helping you achieve your $100,000 goal.
The bottom line
Getting to your first $100,000 can be fulfilling, with many financial and nonfinancial advantages along the way. It could mean redefining the way you live now or strengthening it. Whether that $100,000 is used for emergencies or to achieve greater financial stability, working to build it will help you develop valuable financial habits -- which should make saving the next $100,000 that much easier.
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