Editor's Note: This story originally appeared on Personal Capital.
We’ve all heard about the importance of saving more money. Putting away dollars for a rainy day can do a lot of good for most of us.
Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, 51% of Americans said having an emergency fund is now a higher financial priority than it was before the pandemic, according to a recent survey by Personal Capital and Empower Retirement.
Without a purpose for saving, I tend to lose motivation and end up using my cash for more immediate needs. I don’t think I’m alone in this thinking.
To keep myself motivated, I need a goal or a reason to save.
If you find yourself socking away money, but you’re not sure why, let’s attach some goals to that savings.
Here are several savings goals for you to create a happier today and tomorrow.
Experts suggest that you should have three to six months of expenses in your emergency fund. This way, you’re protected if the unexpected happens.
For example, if you lose your job and you can’t find work for three to six months, you’re covered. Or if your fridge breaks down, the car tire goes flat or your kid throws a glass into the bathroom sink and cracks it (ahem, personal experience), you’re covered.
Having an emergency fund also gives you peace of mind. Knowing that you have money in the bank just in case the worst happens is a beautiful feeling.
Another inevitability of life, hopefully, is retirement. At some point in your lifetime, you’re going to want to stop or slow down your work life.
Even if you think you’re never going to stop working, someday you might be forced to stop due to health reasons. As your body gets older, your ability to perform your job like you used to may be impaired. Or there may be a management change that forces you out before you are ready.
To prepare for retirement and the income we’ll need, we need to start investing early. By utilizing tax-advantaged retirement accounts like a 401(k) and IRA, we’ll be able to save for retirement and save on taxes.
The key to a larger retirement nest egg is starting as soon as possible. With more time on your side, compound interest has a better chance of working its magic.
One savings goal I have right now is upgrading my car. I believe my 12-year-old vehicle has another three to five years on it before it turns into a real clunker.
With that timeframe in mind, I’m starting to sock away some cash each month in a savings account to prepare for my current car’s funeral. It’ll be a sad day, but at least I’ll be ready.
I have a goal of buying my “new-to-me” car in cash. Owning instead of leasing is more advantageous for me as I want to keep my monthly cost of living low. If I’m able to do that over the long term, that’ll help with the previous goal we spoke about … retirement!
With two kids at home, we’re investing in 529 College Savings Accounts to support future college costs. Our 529 accounts will help us cover qualified education expenses for our soon-to-be teenagers as they head off to school.
Like the tax-advantaged accounts mentioned above, the 529 allows your earnings within the account to grow tax-free (if used for qualified expenses). Also, my state of Michigan (along with many other states) allows for full or partial deductions for 529 contributions. Those tax advantages make saving for college a lot more appealing.
Investing for college is not different from investing for retirement. The earlier you start investing, the better off you’ll be. Lucky for us, we got some good advice early in our kids’ lives and started their accounts right when they were born.
Even with that smart money move, it’s going to be difficult for us to catch up to the rising cost of college. Some estimates point to tuition rising at a rate of 8% per year — double that of inflation!
We live in Michigan. The need for us to escape in the winter time to a warm sunny climate is almost a family necessity.
That’s why we save a good chunk of our income each month toward our vacation fund. This way, we have the money ready when we want to get out of town.
If you’re looking for a quick excuse to put away some money, let this stress-reducing savings goal rise to the top of your list. There’s nothing better than a getaway you’re ready for a break from it all.
6. Home down payment
With home prices rising across the country, the need for a solid home down payment is more important than ever. If you’re shopping for your first home, this savings goal may take you quite a while.
Set a savings goal based on when you want to buy your home. With recurring deposits into your home down payment account, you’ll hit your big goal before you know it.
We did this with our first family home. Outside of monthly savings deposits, we also took advantage of any “new money” that came into our house. Newfound cash like bonuses, commissions, tax refunds and even Facebook Marketplace sales all went toward the down payment on our future home.
If you’re ready to make your own big move, you can check out Personal Capital’s free guide to purchasing a house.
7. Big giving
I do love spending money on myself and my family, but I also love giving money away. We save 5% of our income and throughout the year, we’re able to give big donations to charities in need. These are charities and causes that call to our hearts and make us feel honored to give.
With another 5%, we give gifts, cash and surprises to family, friends and our neighbors in need. There’s something truly special when you’re able to give a $100 tip to a waitress in a working-class neighborhood or help your 18-year-old nephew start an investment account with the gift of the initial contribution.
This type of 10% giving makes our family feel happy. And we wouldn’t have this ability or tradition without setting a savings goal and sticking to it.
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