All the money books tell you to do it. All the personal finance blogs say it, too. Even your dad has given you the same advice:
Save ten percent of everything you earn.
But it’s hard. That money could be used someplace else. You could pay the phone bill, could pay down debt, could buy a new DVD player. You’ve tried once or twice in the past, but it’s so easy to forget. You don’t keep a budget, so when payday rolls around, the money just finds its way elsewhere. You don’t even know where you’d put the money if you did pay yourself first. Just let it sit in checking? Keep it in your savings account? You might like to invest in mutual funds, but you don’t really know where to start.
You’d like to save ten percent of everything you earn, but you just don’t know how to go about.
I hear you. I’m in the same boat. It’s only recently that I’ve begun to save part of my paycheck, and I don’t have a system mastered yet. But I’m working on it. I managed to set aside $400 during the first four months of the year. This month, I managed to save 12% of my first paycheck. I hope to save a similar portion of my next few paychecks.
Here’s how I’ve made the transition:
- I started using my credit unions savings account to build a modest emergency fund.
- I buy stock at Sharebuilder, a discount broker that allows small, regular investments. (Ad: Buy Stocks for $4 at ShareBuilder.)
- I scheduled $100 to be drawn from my savings account on the third Tuesday of every month. Using the Sharebuilder control panel, it’s easy to designate which stock to purchase.
- Most importantly, I’ve begun to research possible investments. I still find individual stocks attractive, but I’m paying more attention to mutual funds.
I’ve spent a lot of time this week badgering you to start investing for retirement now. For many people, this seems like a pipe dream, I know. But I encourage you to check out Sharebuilder or some other discount broker in order to learn how easy it is to start making small, regular investments.
(Note: Sharebuilder charges $4 per scheduled investment. If, like me, you’re starting with $100 purchases, that’s a 4% fee, which seems rather hefty. I believe it’s more important to actually develop the saving/investing habit, to become comfortable with how it all works, and to worry about reducing or eliminating that fee in the future.)