If you’re looking to save more money in the new year — and really, who isn’t? — you’ll need a plan. The best saving strategy for you depends on what stage of life you’re in, as each phase carries its own particular financial responsibilities.
There’s no one-size-fits-all advice for saving, but here are a few generation-specific suggestions for getting the ball rolling.
Baby Boomers (51-69)
If you’re a Baby Boomer, you’re part of a massive generation (making up over a quarter of the American population) born between 1946 and 1964.
While you’re in better financial shape than your younger counterparts, the reality is that you probably don’t have much in your retirement account — only 60 percent of boomers report having any retirement savings — you likely don’t have a pension, and you’ve got pressing questions about Social Security and Medicare.
As a result, you’re likely feeling a bit unsettled, particularly since it’s crunch time. You’ve really got to get serious about saving, or you may have to alter your expectations and adjust your standard of living.
So what can you do? Here are a few ideas to safeguard your future.
- Go back to work. Many boomers are, and the majority are doing so for financial reasons.
- Try to get by with less. Is downsizing an option for you?
- Accelerate your retirement savings.
- Make sure your investments are allocated properly. Less than half of boomers are confident that theirs are.
- Consider long-term care insurance.
And if you’re an empty-nester with kids who aren’t fully weaned off your wallet yet, consider prioritizing your own needs first. Sure, it’s human nature to want to take care of your children, but many boomer parents are doing so to the detriment of their own financial security. In fact, according to a study by Ameriprise Financial, 93 percent of boomer parents report providing financial support to adult children, 71 percent helped with college loans and tuition, and 53 percent helped them buy a car.
Gen Xers (36-50)
Most Generation X members, born between 1965 and 1979, are busy trying to advance their careers and raise families. Some are also caring for aging parents.
Managing cashflow, especially at this stage, is particularly challenging. After all, these are the most expensive years of your life. (Do you have any idea how much kids cost?)
Get into the habit of paying yourself first. Set aside a portion of your income the day you get paid, before you spend any discretionary money. The best strategy is to have someone else save for you, with your employer or your bank automatically taking money off the top of your paycheck for your retirement plan or other savings goals.
And avoid buying more home than you can afford. A big mortgage is a bad idea.
Millennials, born between 1980 and 1996, actually tend to be a bit better than Gen Xers at day-to-day money management. However, they often live in the moment when it comes to financial decisions, and fail to prioritize long-term concerns — like retirement, for example. This group is the least likely to contribute to their employer’s retirement plan.
As for managing costs, let’s start with the big one: rent. Avoid paying it altogether, and live at home instead. After all, this is going to be your biggest expense. In many markets, rent eats up more than 30 percent of one’s monthly income.
When it comes to student debt, ridding yourself of this burden should be a top priority. Consider an income-based loan repayment plan.
To keep your discretionary spending in check, give yourself a weekly or monthly allowance, or you’ll end up splurging more often than not.
Technology can be a big help in better managing your money. Try a budgeting app like Mint to set goals and track spending.
And keep an eye on your credit score. If you want to buy a home someday, your score will feature prominently in the mortgage rate you’ll qualify for, and hence how much home you can afford.
What are some of the saving strategies that have worked for you?
Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of Zillow.
Vera Gibbons is a financial journalist based in New York City and is a contributor to Zillow Blog. Connect with her at VeraGibbons.com/.