Almost every New Year, money-related goals rank near the top of resolution lists, right alongside “eat healthier.”
The struggle is real. Many try to save money — at least for a few weeks — by bringing a sack lunch to work, driving past their fancy coffee shop or ignoring enticing emails of storewide clearance sales.
USAA Bank surveyed people of all ages and income levels about how they save money and find extra cash in a pinch. Though many respondents said they are trying to save, most expressed difficulty doing so.
“Savings are typically based on life stages. Those who are just starting out are saving for a major purchase, such as a car or home. If you’re older you’re more focused on retirement,” says Mikel Van Cleve, director of personal finance advice at USAA.
As expected, USAA’s research found a person’s ability to save largely depends on their age and household income. Older Americans and those with greater incomes use their savings to cover unexpected expenses and save for retirement.
Those with household incomes less than $35,000 are significantly more likely to say they’re not able to save regularly. To be sure, economists say slower income growth in the last decade also may have contributed to inadequate savings levels.
When asked how they cover unexpected expenses, most respondents reported taking money out of a savings account. However, nearly half of respondents seek out additional work; 35 percent have been compelled to borrow money from family and friends; 23 percent have sold personal items and 8 percent have taken out a payday loan.
More than half of American households have less than one month of income available in readily accessible savings to use in case of an emergency, according to a new report from the Pew Charitable Trusts.
Household Saving Rate in the United States increased to 5.6 percent in October from 5.3 percent in September of 2015, the highest since December 2012, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. Personal Savings in the United States averaged 8.36 percent from 1959 until 2015, reaching an all-time high of 17 percent in May of 1975 and a record low of 1.90 percent in July of 2005.
The good news is that eliminating the occasional grande macchiato and ignoring a swanky handbag that’s finally 50 percent off, might not be necessary or most effective. JJ Montanaro, CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER (TM) at USAA, said there’s a better way to save.
He offers a few simple strategies to try in 2016:
- Review routine bills and compare service providers. Look for ways of reducing fees and costs.
- Look into refinancing your mortgage or auto loan — you may qualify for a lower rate. It doesn’t hurt to ask.
- Find the right credit card. Look for a card with a low interest rate or cash-back rewards.
- Trade down to a less expensive car. We often spend more on transportation than necessary.
“Most people think that in order to make a dent in their savings, they have to cut out all unnecessary daily expenses like trips to the coffee shop, but there are other ways to help you save more and reduce annual spending,” Montanaro said.
To learn more about how USAA can help you reach your financial goals, visit www.usaa.com.