The actor Michael Caine is quoted as saying “Save your money. You will need twice as much in your old age as you think.” His advice rings true. The cost of things are rising rapidly, often to suit Wall Street (pun intended), and one shouldn’t expect that to stop. It’s out of our hands. However, there are two means to overcome the problem of escalating prices that you can do something about: save your money, and make it work harder by investing it.
Pay Yourself First
One of the key factors to any savings program is pay yourself first, before paying your other obligations, and without going into debt to do it. The idea is to take some of your excess from paying for necessary things like food, clothing, shelter and other demands. Every pay period, and before you are tempted to spend money on optional items, put the money away in a savings account. Your bank can help you set this up so that your checking account automatically transfers some money to your savings account whenever you tell it to.
Having a good budget will help you figure out what to pay yourself. We have a blog post on how to prepare a simple personal budget that will help you get started. If you know how to use Excel, you might also like to download a good budget template from smart people who have already done the work of getting the calculations set up. We like the Family Budget Planner (get the free template) from Vertex42.com because it includes a savings plan as part of the monthly expenses, and shows your money growing if you keep your expenses in line. Their site includes a video demo of how to use the free spreadsheet template, too.
Make Your Money Work
It’s good to have some extra money laying around, but far better to make that money work by investing it. The state of the economy being what it is today, the interest paid on money is low by historical standards. But by today’s standard, it’s a level playing field. Everybody is in now in the same economy you’re in, right? So consult with a financial planner, a real financial planner with real credentials. Your community banker may have a recommendation for you. The NC Secretary of State maintains a list of licensed financial planners, so get information on how to inquire about an investment advisor’s license or status in North Carolina. But before you invest, it is recommended that you have three to six months’ worth of funds to cover your expenses in case of emergency.
Of course, there are other things that a good saver and investor can do to make their money work. Read more about this topic on the US Government’s Save and Invest page.