Savings Onion: Where Our Money Goes

06.04.08 | Money Management | 1 Comment | by junger

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Saving is easy, especially when you pay yourself first. With automatic transfers and recurring investments, you barely have to think about pocketing money for the future.

But where should your money go? Should it be for the short term or saved for retirement?

This is the question you need to answer.

Like Dave Ramsey's debt snowball, there are some layers to your savings; hence, the savings onion.

Our savings onion started with an emergency fund. It's the place to fund first since you never know when you will need it. We live with 3 months of expenses in our emergency fund, since we are also saving for a house in a liquid savings account.

If you're getting started, reach for a goal of $1,000 in your emergency fund. It won't help you for too long if you lose your job, but will cover any emergencies that pop up (and they do).

After we got 3 months of expenses in our emergency fund, we stopped contributing money. We've used it when our windshield cracked thanks to a rock in the road, but thankfully, that's it.

The next step of our savings onion is retirement accounts. At work, I began contributing 6% of my salary to a 401(k) — enough to get my employer match. When I got a raise, I automatically bumped it up to 10%. If I never see the money, I can't spend it!

To increase our retirement savings, we each opened up Roth IRAs. We started out only contributing $100 per month each, but have been able to increase our monthly savings and were able to fill up the accounts.

The Roth IRA contributions were automatic — no need to manually make the transfer. With that layer of savings going, we moved on to the next step: saving for a specific goal.

In our case, we're saving for a house. Since we wanted to be aggressive hitting this goal, we set up automatic transfers from our checking account to a new online savings account — for a year. Our first year of autopilot savings was a huge success — in addition to the money being put away automatically, we transferred every extra penny at the end of the month into the account.

Thanks to the "extra" savings at the end of each month, we were able to triple what our automatic deposits would have contributed during the normal year.

Our Savings Onion

Starting with the outside, here's what our saving onion looks like:

Specific Goal (a House)
Roth IRAs
Emergency Fund

What does your saving onion look like?

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