Diligently saving for your future is an important goal. But it is not second nature for many of us. How can you become an amazing saver? Trick yourself with these four steps.
- Step 1 – Make it easy to save. Do you know what gets people to invest in their 401k retirement plans? Automatic sign-up. Once enrolled, most people will contribute paycheck after paycheck to their 401k because opting out takes effort and staying in does not. So the next time you get especially excited about being fiscally responsible (perhaps right now?) – up your automatic monthly contribution to a 401k, retirement plan, 529 or brokerage account – there’s a good chance you will stick with it. Repeat this step often.
- Step 2 – Remind yourself how much you spend. Do you love the ease of automatic bill pay? Do you know who else does? The companies that offer it. A study from Duke University found that those who auto-pay their electric bills use 5% more energy than those that do not. While auto-pay is undeniably convenient, it decreases your likelihood of reviewing your bills and itemized charges, psychologically encouraging more spending. Examine your bills regularly to remind yourself that spending has consequences (do it as a couple for added effectiveness!)
- Step 3 –Forget about some of your money. Don’t forget about it forever, but if you invest a sum of money in a separate account from your regular accounts, there is a fine chance you will leave it alone and let it grow. When you remember you have it, it will feel as good as a Monopoly “bank error in your favor” card and could be just what you need to make a major life goal come true.
- Step 4 – Make it hard to spend. Online shopping, smart phone apps and those giant carts at Costco make it too easy to buy stuff you really do not need. In the moment, purchasing goods creates a great feeling of fulfillment. But over time, that excitement dissipates. Instead of giving in to the desire for immediate gratification, postpone new purchases. Add them to a wish list. Revisit them in a week or two. If you still are excited to buy, fantastic. But if not, you may find your spending dropping, allowing you to go back to step one and up your automatic savings.
While becoming a super saver is a challenge, a few modest adjustments to your behavior can lead to a huge bump in your wealth over time. Now go ahead and increase one of your automated monthly contributions accounts this second! (I increased my children’s 529 plan contributions as I wrote this article.)
Jonathan Bernstein is a Senior Research Analyst within Hefren-Tillotson’s investment advisory group. Jonathan is a graduate of Yale College, a Chartered Financial Analyst charter holder (CFA) and a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER certificant.