Trying to save money for retirement? Got a plan in place? Does it include slips, bumps, and unplanned things popping up? Well, as my father has often said, “expect the unexpected.”
To do that, you need to have piles of cash lying around. Stacks of cash, ready to handle situations, is a must. Here’s one way to think about it.
Scrape together $1000 for an immediate emergency fund
This may hard. Tough. Seemingly impossible. Look at your paycheck. How much do you bring home each week? $500? $750? More? Try to set aside $50 or $100 each week, each paycheck. (Adjust based on your payout if you must). But get in the habit of setting aside money. Able to set aside $50/week? In 20 weeks (less than six months), you’ll have scraped together $1000. This is handy when your car’s radiators springs a leak and sets you back $500.
Now shoot for $10,000
Got an IRS refund coming next year? This is the perfect time to make plans to use it as seed money for a bigger savings account. Not invested. Not put in the stock market. Not stuffed into a mutual fund or real estate. Pure cash in a handy savings account you can reach should the need arise. Did you automated $50/week going into that first account? See if you can cut another $50 of spending out of your budget and pipe that into this account. Get a chunk of cash from the IRS, from a recently deceased loved one? Or perhaps you have stock options and ESPP plans? Those are all good opportunities to stock it up. Say no to that new furniture set, or a new TV. Put it off for a year. Start this first.
Automate all the things!
That was the title from a fellow software dev. I once had to wait on a colleague for a meeting. He happened to have “The Automatic Millionaire” sitting on his desk. I glimpsed at about four pages before he arrived. The message was to put as much of your wealth building plan on automatic as possible. Slow and steady is the ticket to success.
If you can get comfortable missing those deductions from your paycheck that are routed into savings, it becomes easier next year, to increase from $50 -> $60. Or from $100 -> $125. Get a raise next year? Increase your savings amount at the same time. Sometimes this is called “paying yourself first.”
Got direct deposit for your paychecks? Maybe it will cost you 1-2 hours to contact payroll, sit on the phone, configure a password, or lookup bank routing numbers. But learn how to automatically have your paycheck split up between your checkbook and your cash savings accounts. It will be worth it. Never put the onus on your to remember to set aside savings. Automate, automate, automate. Then, once a year, spend that hour of effort to get back into payroll and bump things up. Up, up, up. Get a 10% raise? Cut something out? Pay yourself by increasing your savings rate.
Don’t have direct deposit? It may be harder, but make it a habit to stop by the bank of payday. Make it a ritual. Glory in socking away that money. Not everything is going out the window. It can also help you focus on what’s REALLY important. Did you need to buy that DVD? That was $15 you could have saved. What about that dinner out? Another opportunity. I’m not suggested you turn into Scrooge, but cutting back a little here and there makes it possible to sock away bits of cash. And if you start small, you can grow tall in your savings rates.
Cash is what makes the rich
When you have piles of cash sitting around, opportunities become available. Options are on the menu. You car breaks down, and now you can fix it without digging the hole of debt. Your mortgage payment doesn’t line up with a paycheck snafu, but you’re covered.
It doesn’t stop there. An opportunity to buy a discounted note for $20,000 pops up. Now it’s in reach because you have the cash on hand. That’s why if you can reach $1000 and $25,000, you can then think about pushing that pile up higher and higher.
The rich keenly have plenty of cash on hand to plug into opportunities. We can too. (I have!)
Happy wealth building.