Personal saving rate rises to 2013 high
The personal saving rate ticked up to 4.9% in September, according to the Department of Commerce.
That was our best month of the year, and the best month we've had since that huge, unexpected and never-duplicated 8.7% performance last December.
It would be great if we could boost our saving rate back over 5% over the next couple of months and build on that in 2014.
This will go down as a pretty lackluster savings year, and we need to focus on how to get closer to the 10% to 15% rate that financial experts say we need.
We all know the challenges.
Three out of every five respondents told the recent Wells Fargo Middle-Class Retirement Survey that simply paying the bills was their top day-to-day concern.
Two out of every five said that paying the bills and saving was simply not possible in their financial world.
Adam Koos, Founder and President of Libertas Wealth Management in Dublin, Ohio, says many people don't save because they get discouraged.
It's tough — if downright impossible — for most households to set aside 15% of their gross income.
When a website or financial adviser suggests that as a goal, and they're struggling to save a few percent, they may quit trying altogether.
"It's self-perpetuating because the longer they go without saving, the less they feel it matters, the more hopeless they get," Koos says.
Joe Pitzl, director of financial planning for Intelligent Financial Strategies in Minnetonka, Minn., says many people put off savings with the belief that they'll be able to play catch-up later.
But Pitzl says many people find the older they get, the harder it becomes to save. While incomes may grow, so do expenses.
"People think they'll wait until later in life to start saving," Pitzl says. "But it can get harder when you've got kids and a mortgage."
One of the best ways to get over the mental hurdle that you "can't save" is to simply start small.
Saving just $50 from each paycheck will put you in a better place than saving nothing. Small amounts and regular contributions can add up big over time.
Koos says low interest rates could be even more of a disincentive to save.
CDs and high-yield savings accounts were paying 5% to 6% before the financial crisis and recession. Now you're lucky to earn 1%.
In any case, putting money aside still gives you money in the future, and it gives you an emergency fund to fall back on.
If you've got a 401(k) retirement plan at work with matching contributions, you could earn a much greater return.
Consider that if you put away just $150 per month and managed to average a 6% return on it, you'd have $25,000 in 10 years.
Sock away $200 per month at that rate, and you'll have $33,000 in 10 years.
No matter how small, any little bit you save today could help out multiple times itself in the future.
"Save a dollar today, and it will be worth more than a dollar tomorrow," Koos says. You may feel like you're giving up the use of that today, but it's for your own future benefit.
"Start with something now."