This year’s Military Saves Week(#MSW19) is upon us. The annual awareness event about the importance of building good savings behavior amongst those who serve and in military families is more important than ever because, sadly, the fact is the majority of Americans have less than $1,000 in savings. And with the expert recommendation of having 3-6 months of living expenses saved up as part of a rainy day fund, $1,000 is often simply not enough.
The good news is it’s never too late to start saving.
While it’s true no well-rounded financial plan would be complete without a comprehensive commitment to saving – whether it’s for traveling after transitioning back to civilian life, a new car or home, emergencies, retirement or something else – it need not be a difficult process. So with this in mind, and in the spirit of Military Saves Week, here are a few quick tips to start your savings journey so that you too can save money, reduce your debt and begin building personal wealth:
Know Your Numbers
Before you even begin to save, it’s vital to know your numbers. Expenses are everywhere – and until you see them all in one place, they can be difficult and frustrating to manage.
Military families often face unique financial challenges that civilians don’t. The PCS process and having to relocate, along with finding a new job for your spouse every few years can take a toll on a family’s budget.
Fortunately, there are tools out there like Navy Federal’s budget analysis calculator that simplify the process, identify areas of improvement, and allow you to see how much money you could potentially save. From there you can start building out plans to determine how long it will take you to reach your savings goals.
Start Building an Emergency Fund & Make Saving Automatic
While the new school of thought recommends saving 6-12 months of living expenses for a rainy day, compared to the conventional 3-6 months, serving in the military often provides the job security needed to be on the lower end of that scale.
But let’s say you want to save for something else, such as a vacation or a new car.
The easiest way to do so is to automate the process– making saving a habit.
First, using the budget calculator above, determine how much you can spare from each paycheck. Then, even if it’s simply $20, consider setting it aside in a savings account, short-term certificate or money market account. From there, you’ll be able to adjust your budgeting and spending behavior without too much of a shock, all while effectively paying yourself first.
Pay Down Your Debt
It’s no secret – high-interest debts from credit cards and other loans can seriously strain your budget and derail your savings goals. Paying off part, or all, of your highest interest rate debt first and then moving to the balance with the next highest interest rate is a great way to keep more of your hard-earned money in your pocket.
Debt and savings will forever be linked together, so make it your mission to develop a repayment plan, if you aren’t doing so already. Navy Federal offers a number of different debt and credit calculators that help make paying off these expenses faster and easier. Once you pay off your high-interest debt, you’ll be able to save and invest more to accumulate wealth.
Continuing to contribute to your savings goals is the key to long-term financial success. While the end of the road may appear far off, a slow and steady approach often grants the flexibility to continue to live your life as you’ve become accustomed without requiring too much change.
For other savings tips, tools, and more check out these resources that can turn any heavy spender into a saver.
Navy Federal Credit Union is federally insured by NCUA