After more than a decade fine-tuning my finances, here's my 4-step process to make building wealth automatic
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- Automating your finances means putting systems in place to automatically pay bills and save money, so you don't have to think about it on a daily basis.
- Eric Rosenberg has been working on his own automation strategy for more than a decade, and he's sharing his best advice on setting up your own.
- Start automating where your paycheck is deposited, he recommends, while being sure to take advantage of any company 401(k) match.
The hardest part about saving money every month is remembering to log in to your bank account, click the transfer button, and move the funds. If you automate your finances, the money will show up in the right places without you having to do a thing, or remember to do anything at all.I've been improving on an automated money strategy for more than a decade. Below, find my four-step process to make your money automatic and get closer to your goals.
Step 1: Start with your paycheck
Your money automation begins before it even hits your bank accounts if you do things right. According to 2016 data from NACHA, 82% of US workers are paid via direct deposit. If that includes you, there are two good automations you can put into place right away.
First, if your company offers a 401(k) plan with any sort of matching, take 100% advantage of that match. If you don't, it's like leaving money on the table. Even with possible high fees, a 401(k) with matching is a great tax-advantaged way to save for retirement. You can always roll the funds over to an IRA if you change jobs in the future.
Second, most employers allow you to split your paycheck into multiple accounts. Most people just put it all into their checking, but you can automate your savings by splitting that direct deposit into two or more deposits. For example, if you save $6,000 per year - $250 per paycheck if paid twice per month or $230.79 per paycheck if paid biweekly - you will max your IRA or Roth IRA.
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Step 2: Set up automatic bill and credit card paymentsMissing a credit card payment due date puts a late payment on your credit report for up to seven years. Rather than risk a slip-up that could take the better part of a decade to fix, you can automate your minimum payments. Set this up at your credit card company's bill payment feature online. You can also automate full payments for your credit card, but you'll only want to do that if you're regularly checking your card's activity, in case of any fraud or other issues.
You can also automatically pay most utilities and other bills. Put everything you can on a credit card to maximize your rewards. Everything else can get paid via electronic funds transfer. Just make sure to pay off your credit cards in full every month to avoid paying interest.
Step 3: Fund retirement, investments, and other goals
Now that the basics are covered, it's time to use your money to grow your wealth and help you achieve other goals. In your bank and investment account's online transfer feature, you can set up scheduled transfers from checking into other parts of your financial life.
As long as you can afford it, you can automatically save an emergency fund, vacation or travel fund, save for a goal like a wedding, or automatically add to a brokerage account that you want to use for dividends as part of an early retirement plan. There are no rules. You can be creative and turn on the automatic savings to reach your goals.
Just be careful not to over-automate and overdraft your account. Overdraft and insufficient funds fees can be expensive. Take care to avoid them.
Step 4: Round it out with round-ups and apps
You can also save more money automatically with apps that round-up purchases and put money on other savings schedules for you. Here are a couple of common favorites to consider:
- Acorns: Automatically round up debit or credit card purchases to fund an investment account. Save for retirement under an Acorns Later account. Fees apply.
- Qapital: This app offers a range of creative savings strategies to fund either savings or investment accounts. Link to IFTTT to save with countless rules. For a while, I saved $1 every time Donald Trump put out a new Tweet on Twitter. Qapital's savings feature is free.
- Digit: For a monthly fee, Digit uses an AI to look at your checking account balance and pull random amounts into savings. Over time, this adds up.
This is far from an exhaustive list. One thing they all have in common is that they make savings automatic.
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