Despite the fact that the economy is strong, four in 10 Americans don’t have enough savings to cover an unexpected expense of $400. That said, it’s probably no surprise that one-quarter of adults haven’t started saving for retirement yet — how are you supposed to save up money when you can’t afford to get your laptop fixed?
Turns out you don’t have to be flush with cash or even give up brunch in order to start saving for retirement. The key to smart financial planning is to break it down into small but impactful habits — like sticking to a budget and banking with benefits — that make a big difference in the long run.
Build a budget
Put together a spreadsheet to see where every dime of your hard-earned money goes. Start by listing your total income and then itemize all of your expenses — your daily matcha fix, yoga classes, your monthly subscriptions — get it all in there.
If the numbers say you’re spending more money than you bring in, you’re on the path to debt and need to make a change, stat. Even if you’re earning more than you spend, you can still trim your expenses and save even more.
Cut the fat
We all spend our money differently, but nixing some of your straggler subscriptions is likely a great place to start trimming. Do you really need all of the streaming services? What about your phone plan — are you really using all that data or could you downgrade to a cheaper plan? After you tighten your belt, monitor your expenses (there are apps for that) to help you stay on track with your leaner budget.
Work your apps
When dissecting your budget, you not only want to look at what you’re spending your money on, you want to look at how you’re spending your money. If you’re a big online and app shopper, there are digital banks that will actually reward you for that.
Green Dot Bank has a new Unlimited Cash Back Bank Account that puts practically 3 percent of everything you spend online or on an app right back into your savings account1. All you need to do is open a Green Dot Bank account and use it as the default payment for all of your regular sites and apps. Green Dot will reward you by kicking 3 percent of what you spend back to you.
For the super-saver path, Green Dot’s app features a High Yield Savings Account2 to help grow funds you set aside. In addition to rewarding your online spending, Green Dot will also reward you with a bonus 3 percent of whatever you have in your savings account every year, up to $10,000.
Basically, you buy what you already buy and earn 3 percent, sock it away in your savings and earn an additional 3 percent, and then watch your savings grow on the Green Dot app.
Open an IRA
You’ve heard it before, but just do it. Putting anything away for retirement, even what you spend on coffee and a bagel, is a great place to start.
Roth IRAs are among the most popular long-term retirement accounts because of one key feature: Your contributions and interest earnings grow tax-free and, at retirement, withdrawals are 100 percent tax-free. Just putting $2,000 in a Roth IRA could yield sweet long-term benefits over three decades. Roth IRAs are vital for millennials working in the gig economy, but they can also offer more freedom than an employer-sponsored 401(k).
If you take the time to know your budget, open bank accounts that reward your spending habits, and contribute even the smallest of sums into a retirement account, you’re on your way to setting yourself up financially for whatever life throws at you.
All of this smart financial stuff said and done — go ahead and order that fat slab of avocado toast. You’ve earned it.
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 3% Annual Percentage Yield.