Saving just comes more naturally to some people than others. Many of us feel driven to live for the moment, but what about the nagging thought that we should be putting money aside for the future?
A survey by the UK state’s Money Advice Service in 2016 found that a third of adults in that country had less than £100 (€112) savings. Whether your reaction to this a judgemental internal “tut tut” or a rueful smile will give an idea if you are temperamentally inclined to save more or less. Fortunately, if you tend towards being a spendthrift there are way to help you save.
Why not set up a regular standing order just after pay-day to a savings product that imposes costs if you want to extract the money? Not only do investment funds expose you to potential growth in financial markets, but you have to pay an exit fee if you want to get at your money six months after investing. Choose a low fee “tracker”/“index” fund to keep costs down.
Alternatively, your bank will be able to sign you up for a pension fund or a housing-savings fund. Your funds are blocked until your goal is reached: retirement or time to purchase a home. As well, these products have the added advantage that you can write off these investments against tax. Incidentally, and somewhat curiously, interest on consumer loans can also be deducted from your tax bill. If you are a spendthrift, you might want to ignore that piece of information.
There are also online tools often featuring phone apps that help you budget or save for a specific project. These give you a feel-good buzz as savings build towards predefined goals. Maybe set up a separate bank account for these savings and have a related credit card or cash withdrawal card.
Act early on debt
Sadly some people find it too easy to drift into excessive debt, and this can get out of hand, particularly if they lose their job. “If you have problems come to us to talk as soon as possible and we will find a solution,” noted Marc Geib, head of retail lending at ING Luxembourg. “Sometimes people feel embarrassed and try to avoid the issue, but eventually our systems alert us when people are falling behind with payments and we will have to step in,” he added.
So for example, if you can’t keep up mortgage payments, you can ask your banker to accept just interest rate payments while you look to downsize your home. Taking early action means you will be able to sell at the fair market price, rather than having to accept what you are given when selling in last minute panic.
It is important not be too self critical, but also to be honest with oneself. Whether it’s our genes or the way we were brought up, some of us are better able to save than others. But we don’t have to be a slave to our nature. Make a plan and stick to it. To save, set realistic targets and then feel good when these goals are achieved. Maybe start small and build up as willpower strengthens. Electronic tools can help by reminding us of our new virtuousness and how we are being kind to our future selves.