Saves Week begins Sunday, Feb. 23 -March 1. This national campaign is a broad coalition of nonprofit, corporate and government agencies that help individuals and families save and build wealth. The Extension Service is a collaborator in this campaign and we are promoting the message, “Set a goal, Make a plan, Save automatically.” Through information and education, Americans are being encouraged to pay down debt, build an emergency fund and save for a home, education and retirement.
Sounds like a tall order, but it is consistent amounts of money over time that builds up savings. According to America Saves, research shows that there are “savers” and “spenders” in all income levels. Understandably, modest incomes can’t save as much as a family at a higher income level; however, all have the ability to build wealth over time.
In Florida, we are promoting the idea to start small and think big. Over time small amounts of money will grow. One of the first steps you can take is to build an emergency fund. While we know savings accounts don’t pay much interest, the purpose of this type of savings is to have money for unexpected expenses. It keeps you from putting purchases on your credit card which cost more in the long run because of interest charges. It is estimated that Americans take out $2 billion a year in high interest rates to cover unexpected bills. A goal of $500 to $1,000 in an emergency fund will allow you to meet unexpected challenges such as a car repair, a visit to the doctor or a home repair.
Financial experts recommend consumers have a separate account for emergency savings in a bank or credit union savings account. By keeping emergency money separate from your checking account, you will reduce the temptation to use it for every day purchases. A regular savings account offers easy access to your money for any unexpected expense you might encounter. Some banks have a minimum deposit to open an account and a minimum balance to avoid fees, so you may need to put money in a jar for a few months until you have enough to open an account.
If you want to build an emergency fund, but just don’t have the money, take a good look at your spending habits. That soda you buy every day or the stops for a quick meal because you are too tired to cook may be draining your wallet. We all spend much more than we think, so try eliminating one habit and save the money. Another easy way to accumulate money is to empty the change out of your pockets each night; you’ll be surprised how much money you’ll have at the end of the month.
Once your emergency account is funded, you can expand your savings to reach long term goals, like a down payment for a house or a child’s college education. There are many alternatives available for savings and investing money; wise consumers research their options before making decisions. Make the pledge to be a saver by going to www.americasaves.org and enrolling, you will receive a newsletter throughout the year with ideas on growing your money.
Our Extension colleagues at Rutgers University have created a five-week Financial Challenge. If you are interested in participating in the online educational series, visit http://rutgers.ancc.net and register for the series which begins Sunday Feb. 23-Saturday, March 29. For more information on saving money and family finances, contact the Madison County Extension Service.
The University of Florida Extension/IFAS Extension – Madison County is an Equal Employment Opportunity Institution.