Can I just start by saying that you are not alone, and you don’t have to feel like a failure just because you don’t have money saved yet?
Now that that’s out of the way—I’m enthusiastic about writing this post because I KNEW I couldn’t be the only one feeling the stress of having a nonexistent savings account. I mean of course, I want one. But life has a way of throwing curve balls at you that you never saw coming, and the concept of saving is becoming increasingly more difficult—especially for our generation.
According to a 2017 GoBankingRates survey, most young millennials—which GBR defined as those who were between 18 and 24 years old that year—had less than $1,000 in their savings accounts. Nearly half had nothing saved at all. To be more specific, the amount of millennials with $0 in savings is on the rise. In 2016, 31 percent had $0, compared to 46 percent in 2017. As of February 2019, almost two-thirds of millennials say they’re living paycheck to paycheck. That’s a lot of freaking millennials.
Why so much pressure?
I was talking to my boyfriend one day, and he told me that as young men age, they have a growing pressure that lingers around, telling them that they should have money saved, assets of their own and how they need to start preparing for settling down and taking care of a family. At the time, we were only discussing men, but I believe this pressure could be applicable to every young person out there! I mean, think about it. Most of our parents (baby boomers and some Gen Xers) were out of the house by 18 and married with kids on the way by 21. At a time when this was fairly easy to do (considering financial and economical parameters), our parents now expect us to do the same thing—during a time where houses are three times the price, cars cost thousands of more dollars, paying for daycare is nearly impossible and don’t even get me started on student loans.
Millennials are still making better money decisions.
Not all hope is lost though. Even though a lot of us are struggling with our savings, we’re still doing some things right! From Business Insider:
- We have little to no credit-card debt. (Thirty-two percent have no credit-card debt at all, and 36% have less than $5,000. These numbers are better than our Gen-X neighbors.)
- If we were given a random $1,000 lump sum, we are most likely to pay off debt or save it. (Twenty-seven percent of millennials would choose to pay off debt while 22% would save.)
- We put more of our income towards retirement—because duh! (Nearly 16% of millennials said they set aside 11% to 20% of their income for retirement, which is more than ANY other generation. I don’t personally do this yet, but one day soon, my friend!)
I have to admit though, this whole saving thing is pretty hard. Every time I think I’m about to have money left over, it’s like life doesn’t want me to have it. Whether my car breaks down, I get sick, my registration is due—it’s always SOMETHING. I’ll be 26 soon, and it feels like I have nothing to show for all the hard work I’ve put in over the last decade (been working since I was 16).
So how are you supposed to actually save your money like a “normal,” functioning adult? Below are some universal tips that can help ease your mind about your savings account and possibly help grow your savings fund!
In your 20s, aim to save 25% of your overall gross pay.
Before you freak out, I haven’t been doing this either. Good news is: money expert at Intuit Kimmie Greene says, “That 25% is the combination of 401(k) withholdings, matching funds from your employer and any cash savings that you have. It can also include debt repayment.”
I was ecstatic to read that because when I think about how much money I’ve already put toward debt cancellation and the amount I still plan to pay, this definitely has the potential to put me closer to that 25% range. So relax. You’re doing just fine!
Make your savings automatic.
CNBC, Forbes, MoneyTips and more all mention the power of having your savings withdraw from our paycheck automatically. If you haven’t already, consider having part of your paychecks deposited automatically into a separate emergency account. This helps you avoid the temptation of spending more than you have, and you’ll quickly adjust your spending habits to match your new take-home pay.
Too much of anything is a bad thing.
Growing a savings account shouldn’t be torture. Schwab’s EVP of Investor Services Terri Kallsen says, “We want people to have good experiences in life, but the most important thing is that people find the right balance so that spending doesn’t impact their long-term financial security.”
She makes a good point about finding a plan that works best for you that allows you to have rewarding life experiences while saving for the future.
Too much of any one thing is not a good thing for your overall biochemistry. And too much of any one thing, from a finance standpoint, is not a good thing for your overall financial plan.Terri Kallsen, EVP of Investor Services at Schwab
Save the equivalent of your annual salary by age 30.
This is, by far, the most common savings tip I’ve seen across the internet. If you earn $50,000 a year, aim to have $50,000 in your savings when you hit 30. But again, as CNBC mentions, this includes any retirement-account contributions, matching funds from your company, cash savings OR money you have invested elsewhere!
I think it’s so cool that savings doesn’t always have to be a tangible dollar amount that you can see in the bank. It also includes money you’ve invested, as well as money you’ve used to pay down your debt. This fact alone makes me feel a little better about my money habits and gives me hope for the future.
Now that I know that two-thirds of us are living paycheck to paycheck, I don’t feel so left behind. The pressure you’re feeling is completely natural, but don’t let it bring you down. You are NOT a disappointment, you are NOT poor, and you are most certainly NOT a failure. If you’re interested, my good friend and I just started a podcast called Dear Me, and our most recent episode was about budgeting. Check it out here!
What are some other ways you help yourself save money? What would you say to us young adults who are feeling the pressure? Let’s start a conversation in the comment section!