We've all weathered economic uncertainty in the last decade as financial institutions, companies and countries have stumbled, struggled and are now working to stand back up. But even in times of relative calm for the global economy, it's not unusual to worry and wonder about your own financial security. Financial stability, apart from being able to pay unexpected bills and fund your own retirement, gives you the confidence and strength to go through everyday life. By saving money and increasing your income, you can move towards banking your first $100,000. And once you do that, the way to the next $100,000 becomes easier.
The Right Mindset
Saving your first $100,000 is a goal that is neither short-term nor easy. To get there you need to start training your mind. You need to understand how to achieve this goal and plan accordingly. If you are the kind of person who rarely takes note of your expenses or budgets, now would be the time to start. All actions need to be oriented towards achieving the goal of saving. Little things can add up. Reducing that daily Starbucks habit or taking public transportation to work instead of driving a few days a week can help. If you understand that these are minor sacrifices for a little less financial uncertainty, the going will be smoother.
Create Short-Term Saving Goals
It's all very well to imagine yourself in a country home post-retirement, but that distant vision may not get you going today. To really stay motivated, break your long-term saving goals into short-term goals. They can be weekly goals. For example, a man who ran a dry-cleaning service decided he would take some small change everyday and put it into his daughter's college fund, starting from when she was five years old and continuing until she reached 18. Setting aside a little change didn't hinder his business or day-to-day life, but it did mean that he had a tidy sum saved by the time his daughter was ready to go to college. Starting the process early and saving small amounts steadily helps you know you have made progress covering the distance of a long journey. You can have daily saving goals too. This will help keep you fired up for the longer-term goals. Savings accounts, certificates of deposits, money market deposit accounts and government bonds are good short-term money-saving instruments. A savings account is particularly useful as an emergency fund keeper.
Save on Taxes
If you are employed and your employer is eligible, go for a 401(k) tax-deferred savings plan. The amount you contribute to the plan and the earnings on it are tax-free, until you pull the money out for retirement. The percentage you contribute also reduces your taxable income by the same percentage. Some companies will even offer a matching amount, based on how much you set aside each paycheck. Early on in your career, you can invest in stocks more aggressively. If your employer does not offer a 401(k) plan, then consider opening an individual retirement account (IRA). Earnings in an IRA account are also tax-deferred. To enroll in either, 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, with tax savings to boot.
Reduce Your Interest Burden
We want it all. We want the home, car, home theater system or the double door fridge. With a few easy key strokes online, we can have it. But it turns out that instant gratification has a hefty price that can take years to repay and even years off your life. Prioritizing debt and reducing it is the first critical step to saving. Take a look at all of your loans and see how long it will take you to whittle them down. If you do have savings or fixed deposits, you can liquidate some to reduce your debt burden. If you get a bonus or a dividend, think of prepaying a part of your mortgage to reduce your interest burden. In the case of credit card debt, talk to your credit card company and negotiate for a lower rate if possible. Companies will sometimes offer to take on other credit card company loans at a lower interest in their pursuit of new customers. If you need to take out a loan, make sure you look around carefully and choose to borrow money with the lowest interest rates. You'd be surprised by how many people don't do that. Ask friends and family who might be willing to extend interest-free loans for shorter periods.
Take Advantage of Employee Benefits
Look at how your employer can be your partner in your savings goal. Many employers contribute an equal amount to 401(k) plans. Contribute aggressively. Avail any other benefits your employer may provide, like special discounts at stores, coupons or health plans. If your employer provides assistance for skill upgrading or 'back to school' programs, take advantage of the opportunity.
Generating Additional Income
Generating revenue is the other tactic that will help you reach a $100,000 goal faster. Do you sew, do some other craft or teach? These are some hobbies that can help rake in some extra money. You could tutor children for a few hours a week or sell your crafts at the weekend market. You could spend some time investing in stocks or do some freelance projects. Don't let any of your skills or talents go to waste. They will help you earn some more money and keep you more fulfilled.
Keep Costs Low
There are always things you can do to keep your costs down. Some examples include: making more home dinners; walking short distances when possible rather than taking the car; taking your kids to the park or zoo rather than to the local mall; buying your groceries in bulk for the month, rather than making small purchases more regularly; giving up smoking and other costly habits; taking lunch to work; using your car until it can't be used anymore; buying a house within your means; if you can't buy a home within your means, choose to rent; if you are not using that gym membership, then don't renew it; recycle and reuse items as much as possible; use alternative energy to light and heat your home; and sell whatever clothing or household items you don't use. The list is endless. There are many ways of saving in our everyday life. The dollars and cents will all add up to your $100,000 goal. Your quality of life will improve and not suffer.