When it comes to saving money, buying fewer lattes is often touted as a secret to success.
But seriously – if you bought a $3 drink every week-day for a year, we’re talking about $780. While another $780 would certainly be a good thing for your investments, I don’t know if we can whip this in as a primary ingredient of a solid long-term investing strategy.
Let’s stop majoring in minor things, and start focusing on getting the big things right.
Here are the top four ‘big things’ to get right when it comes to saving and investing:
- Use revolving savings accounts – Set up separate accounts in the bank for each of your big-ticket spending items throughout the year (i.e. Travel, Home-Repairs, Car Replacement/Repair, and Holiday). Put money into each of these accounts each month instead of demolishing your cash-flow in the months they occur.
- Ditch debt – Debt payments can eat away at our long-term goals way more than sugary coffee drinks. Get on a written debt-elimination plan and stop putting yourself in a hole you are constantly having to dig your way out of.
- Know your number – Use resources like Chris Hogan’s R:IQ tool to set your long-term goal and discover how much you should be investing per month to get on track.
- Automate good decisions – Start a retirement savings program using the dollar-cost averaging method. Here’s how it works:
- Do your homework – pick a proven mutual fund with a pro and decide which account you will use based on your goal for the money (brokerage, IRA).
- Set up an automatic deduction each month from your checking account or paycheck that goes directly into that investment. The deduction should be the same dollar amount – into the same investment – each time.
- Some months, your investment will be priced high if the market is high. Other months, you will get more shares for your dollars if the market goes low. Think of it as taking advantage of a sale – everyone loves a sale. By buying more shares at a low price over time, it drives down the average price-per-share that you pay in your overall position. It’s math!
- Check in on your progress a few times a year, but don’t change the program unless you see some major red flags. Dollar-cost averaging works best when you utilize the strategy over the long-term. Eventually you can be dollar-cost averaging into multiple investments, depending on your goals and plan with a pro. This is called diversification.
Get these big things right and stress less – enjoy your latte!