Maximizing Savings and Earnings

We’ve talked about saving for retirement, but how much do I contribute to it?

You need to know your monthly expenses. So you will need to keep track of what you buy, your bills, and your rent. Best bet is to look over your past statements for the last 3 months. This way you can do an average of the results to give yourself a cushion. I know this all seems pretty obvious. You really need to scrutinize your monthly expenses, otherwise there’s no way for you to know how much you can save and areas you can trim expenses.

What I do is simple Google drive excel type sheet to tally everything up.

Here’s an example:

simpleBudget

It is really simply, write in fields for your pay and then all of your monthly expenses (averaged for the month). Now, you just do a simple function to add all the cells for expenses (the total expense here). The command is “=add(b7:b27)” written into B28 cell. Write a subtract (from your pay to the Total Expense). The command is “=minus(b3,bb28)” written into B30 cell to get your Net income.

What you have now is an average number per month based on your current pay and your current expenses. Hopefully your in the black, which means your positive, you have money leftover after all your expenses. If you’re in the red (meaning your negative), then you need to find ways to shave off your expenses and/or earn additional income. I’d err on finding ares to cut expenses, like say no Netflix or buy a few less Starbucks/meals out.

Whatever amount your have leftover this is the money you can use for either savings or retirement. If you have credit card debt I would focus on this first before even doing long term retirement. If your company does a match for your 401k, you could contribute at least enough to get the company mininum, but only if your credit card debt is small.

Now the another angle to look at, is even if you are positive in cash flow every month, what can you do with that money in addition to saving/retirement. If you have a car payment or mortgage, maybe you want to have a little more money going to pay off that debt. The gains you get from being invested in say your 401k won’t matter if your owing a debt that charging a higher interest than what your 401k’s gains are. Always a good rule of thumb is try to be as debt free as possible and reduce the amount of interest you pay.

Simple, right? Now comes the part where consistently adhering to this budget (roughly) to see if you are able to save or invest the surplus like you thought. My best advice is to setup some form of automatic withdrawal to go to the accounts you wanted. The sooner the money gets allocated, the sooner it doesn’t get spent.

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