Do you remember when you started your first savings account? I know I must have been pretty young when I first deposited money because I didn't quite understand how a savings account worked, and I was disappointed when I couldn't "withdraw" my Buffalo Nickel that I had deposited. That disappointment notwithstanding, I was a lucky child to have a savings account early in my life.
Research by William Elliott from Kansas University has found that a child with even a small amount of money (less than $500) in a savings account is almost two and half times more likely to graduate from college than a child with no savings. While more research is needed on this topic, one possibility is that if a child identifies themselves as a "college-saver" from an early age, then they may be more engaged in school, and thus more likely to enroll and graduate from college.
Knowing that money in a savings account will be used for college – rather than money to be used in another way – is a form of mental accounting. Mental accounting involves categorizing money. I like to visualize it as placing money into different boxes. We know from research that adults use mental accounting with money in many ways. It's why many people treat money received from gifts, bonuses and also tax refunds differently than we use money from our wages. In this situation, money is often spent on items that the spender would normally consider frivolous, but because the money has been put into a different box in their minds, it feels okay.
We can, and do, use mental accounting to help us manage our money wisely too. A good example of this is Christmas savings accounts. Many people have a savings account just to help save for the holidays; they deposit money all-year round and then withdraw it to buy gifts. Because this money has been categorized, it's easier for people to not spend it on other things.
In fact, all types of saving accounts help us. They allow us to place money that we don't want to spend on daily needs in a separate account (both mentally and physically). This is a wonderful tool! And, yet, too many people do not have enough savings. As reported in "What Resources Do Families Have for Financial Emergencies?" by Pew Charitable Trusts, over 40% of households do not have enough easy accessible savings to pay for the $2,000 cost of the typical household's most expensive financial shock such as a major car or home repair, or a loss of income. In fact, one in 3 American families reports having no savings at all, including 1 in 10 of those with incomes of more than $100,000 a year.
Now is the time to make a commitment to start to save in a savings account and/or help younger family members to start to save too. Saving small amounts over time will add up; the first step is to start.
Tax refunds can be used to jump start savings. In fact, you can use Form 8888 when filing your tax statements to split your tax refund and have it direct deposited into two or three accounts. This way you start your savings account and still receive some refund for spending now.
I invite you to us in celebrating America Saves Week on February 22 – 27, 2016. This is a great time to set a savings goal or recommit to saving money. Pledging a savings goal can help you build savings. Research shows that the act of writing (or pledging) a goal increases the chances that the goal will be achieved.
It is easy to participate in America Saves Week. Visit www.americasaves.org, set a savings goal, and make a plan to save money. Once you set your goal, you'll have the option to receive a free, educational e-newsletter from America Saves and/or helpful text messages to help stay on track with your savings goal.
Have you already taken the America Saves pledge? Consider recommitting to your savings goal and re-pledge today. Happy Savings!