With Time and Planning On Your Side, Financial Goals Can Move Within Reach


(BPT) - Paying for college, buying a home, entering retirement — these are all significant life events, and they all come at a significant price. But they also come with fair warning. Generally, these types of expenditures are anticipated, often many years in advance, which means they can be planned for and pursued steadily over time.

Everyone has unique circumstances, and the path to achieving a common goal will be unique as well. That said, individuals and families who share a commitment to becoming financially literate and adopting tried-and-true savings strategies tend to have a better chance at achieving big-ticket dreams.

Build a budget

The first step to building savings is to build a budget. This activity involves determining how much money comes in each month and how much goes to necessary expenses, such as housing, food, utilities, transportation, insurance and subscriptions (which can add up quickly and drag on expenses).

The goal is for people to live within their means. Ideally, the budget will also have room for wants and savings, both for an emergency fund and for any other spending goals.

Save automatically

With online banking, individuals can set up automatic payments to cover their bills on time, avoiding costly late fees, and coordinate regular transfers to dedicated interest-bearing savings accounts. By timing these transfers monthly, such as on pay day, the money is moved aside before getting spent.

Additionally, workplace retirement plans are one of the easiest ways to save for the golden years. Contributions are automatic and made with pre-tax dollars, so participants fund their future while lowering their present income tax bill. Many employer-sponsored plans also offer after-tax (ROTH) contribution options. This option has the potential to lower tax bills during retirement since qualified distributions will be tax free.

Don’t leave money on the table

To encourage employees to save, employers often match a portion of contributions to a workplace retirement plan. For example, a company may offer a dollar-for-dollar match up to 6% of salary; a participating employee saving 6% of their pay would receive another 6% from their employer, getting 12% of their salary set aside every month.

Savings can build much faster with an employer’s help, and organizations today are offering a variety of other benefits to help their workers save. Taking full advantage of benefits packages can enable employees to save on healthcare, childcare, commuting and even student loan payments, as well as for retirement.

Start early

For any spending target, from short-term plans like a vacation to long-term plans like a child’s college education, the key is to start saving as soon as the idea germinates. If funds are in an interest-bearing account, they can benefit from interest as it compounds over time, adding to direct contributions.

For goals that are further out, investment accounts may offer greater growth potential. Some college savings plans offer age-based investment options, which automatically become more conservative to protect an account’s value as a child nears their college years. With any investment, it is critical to understand the associated risks before moving forward.

Tap the experts

Managing finances and planning for major savings goals can be challenging, especially when the cost of living has been elevated in recent periods. Some additional perspective and guidance may be helpful, and one place to start is at a community bank.

First Interstate Wealth Management, for instance, has advisors who can help clients access a number of financial calculators and resources to help develop a savings plan, as well as provide information about accounts that may be suitable. With the right tools and support, dreams can become a reality.