As I begin the journey of finishing my working career I look back at messages I have received throughout my lifetime about money and the idea of saving money. Of course, as a young man I never gave much thought to saving. After all I was young and I had a lot of time to save.
It was a plan built on wishes and fantasies. A plan which gave me all sorts of money to party and put me on a path of self-destruction. While I had some amazing times, albeit a bit crazy, the memories have lasted me a lifetime. But those memories did nothing for me when I had an emergency.
It got to a point where I could justify not saving money. After all, with all the debts I had how could I possibly save a penny? The question should have been how could I not save a penny?
One of the easiest ways to save money and to also get a raise in pay is through your pension plan at work (401K). People don’t do it because… well it goes back to my early beliefs that I was young and I’ll worry about it tomorrow.
Let’s look at a simple example of how this can help. This is just an example using simple financial amounts. During the month you make $1000. Let’s say that 20% is taken for taxes. Your take home pay is $800. That is everything you make for the month, so saving money is impossible, right? I. Say. Wrong.
I’m still learning the UK pension plans, so I’ll use the 401K models that I am used too. Let’s say your employer will match your contributions up to 5%. So if you put in 2%, they will contribute 2%. If you put in 3%, they do 3% and so on up to 5%. So if you contribute to a 401K and only contribute 2% (in this example) you are losing money. You are losing 3% of the money your employer would contribute.
In the above example, based on a 100 hour work month, your hourly wage was $10. By contributing 2% to a 401K, which your employer matches your monthly wage grew by $20. An hourly increase of 20 cents. So the hourly wage grew to $10.20. But without taking advantage of the employers 5% maximum the employee is losing $30 a month and 30 cents an hour.
Yes, to get this increase you will have to give money from your check that you say you don’t have. 401K contributions are taken into account before taxes. So if you take 5% from your monthly check of $1000, your taxable income is $950. Then the 20% taken from that amount leaves you with a take home check of $760. A loss of $40. But you are adding $50 to your account and your employer is adding another $50. So for the month you added $100 to your account, which only cost you $40.
These are simple figures but it is crazy not to use pension plans to your advantage. I have heard from people in the UK that plans are garbage. The only horrible plan is no plan. To take advantage of any plan, contribute at least the maximum that your employer will match and also look at your plan. Many plans offer different investments to grow your money. From simple safe plans like bonds and CD’s to more risky investments from international funds.