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- The best way to build your savings is with automation.
- When you automate contributions to your savings, investment, or retirement accounts, you’ll be able to put away a little bit from each paycheck with virtually no ongoing effort.
- Without thinking about it, your accounts and your net worth will grow.
- One technique is to use a dedicated long-term savings account, so that you aren’t tempted to withdraw from it – unless it’s to invest funds.
In best-selling books “The Automatic Millionaire” and “I Will Teach You to Be Rich,” authors David Bach and Ramit Sethi explain unique approaches to managing your money with as little work as possible and a focus on long-term success.
One major tool these money pros both love is automation.
But how do you take this idea and apply it to your actual money? Let’s put theory into action and build a money blueprint you can use to automate your savings and investments – making it easy to build up the value of a savings account or investment portfolio.
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Put your paycheck in the right places
The automated money process starts with your paycheck. According to the National Payroll Association’s annual Getting Paid in America survey, 92.8% of Americans get paid via direct deposit. If you are a part of this group, you may have more options than you realize when it comes to how you get paid.
For example, you should start with an automatic 401(k) contribution from your employer, taking at the minimum the full employer match. You may have other payroll deductions available for investments, including employee stock purchase plans and health savings accounts.
Next, you can split your direct deposit into more than one account. In this case, you may want to split your direct deposit to fund an IRA or Roth IRA account. For those up to 50 years old, you can contribute a maximum $6,000 in either IRA in 2019. If you are paid bi-weekly with 26 paychecks per year, a contribution of $230.76 per paycheck will give you the maximum savings rate per year. The maximum you can save for 2018 is $5,500, or $211.53 per paycheck. If you are 50 or older, you can contribute an additional $1,000 per year.
Once it’s there, you can automate the investments with a recurring monthly investment of your choice, or just log in to your investment account periodically and funnel the money into your favorite low-cost mutual fund.
Alternatively, or in addition, you can direct funds to a cash savings account to build an emergency fund. Then, as your savings build, you can periodically take some funds and move them into an investment account.
Automate your recurring bills
If you have good credit card habits and pay off your bills in full every month, you should consider a rewards credit card and put every possible bill on your card. Trash service, utilities, mobile phones, home telecom services, and other bills often give you the option to pay automatically with a card. If you can, take advantage!
Other recurring bills can be automated for payment through your online bill pay system at your bank or through the biller’s website for an automatic payment from your bank account. Again, turning these on saves you time and eliminates the opportunity for late fees.
I use my bank’s online bill pay to automatically pay my mortgage each month. Without thinking about it, the payment goes to the mortgage company on time by the end of the month.
Put your credit cards on auto-pilot
Just like your other bills, you can pay your credit cards and other loans automatically. If you have any debt, the debt snowball or debt avalanche payoff methods, popularized by money guru Dave Ramsey, can be achieved with automated payments on the majority of your accounts.
If you don’t carry debt, which is ideal, you can automate your payments monthly from your checking account. Just make sure you have enough cash in there to cover the payments and avoid overdrafts.
DRIP your way to wealth
In your investments, you can set up recurring monthly investments based on recurring monthly transfers or direct deposits to any investment account, just like with your IRA. In any account, you should consider turning on automatic dividend reinvestments, which keep your money working for you.
Some stocks allow automatic purchases directly through stock servicers at little to no cost. These offer dividend reinvestments through a DRIP, short for Dividend Reinvestment Plan.
As long as you have a long time horizon in front of you, most investors should focus on a recurring investment in diverse assets regardless of market conditions. Because you have the time to survive a downturn and ride the wave back up on the other side, you should just keep on investing regardless of what the market does.
Those with a shorter time horizon or more loss aversion should create an appropriate portfolio for their needs. If you have any doubt, consult with a trusted investment professional for advice or assistance.
Let the system work in your favor
Once everything is up and running, just leave it alone and let it work for you. Check in regularly with a favorite money management app, such as Mint, Personal Capital, Clarity Money, or YNAB.
At least once per year, you should check in and make sure things are running as expected. You can always fine-tune your system to better work for you. Most importantly, however, is that your debt will go down and your savings will go up without you having to remember or do a thing. Stay within budget and sit back watching your wealth grow with financial automation.
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