How to balance your family’s savings priorities

With a little planning, you can plan for the savings goals that matter most as a family.

Saving for one is hard enough, but family savings multiply the challenge. You have short-term desires versus long-term goals, plus unexpected expenses that can pop up regularly.

This all may sound complicated, but with a little planning and setting financial goals, you can come up with a plan that covers your family’s needs, while allowing for saving and even vacations and other fun stuff.

Priority 1: Prepare for the unexpected

Start an emergency fund. You never know what will happen: an illness, an accident, an unexpected layoff. That’s why it’s important to set aside money for emergencies. Experts recommend that emergency funds for families cover six to nine months’ worth of expenses. If, however, you or your spouse are self-employed or income is unpredictable, consider saving even more.

Priority 2: Get long-term goals in order

  • Retirement comes first. When setting financial goals, planners recommend saving for retirement over saving for your kids’ educations. Remember: Students have access to a wide variety of loans, but there are no loans for their retiring parents. Also keep in mind that federal financial aid formulas don’t factor in parents’ retirement savings. So consider contributing as much as you can to retirement funds, and take advantage of your full company match if your employer offers one.
  • Education savings come second. Then save for your kids’ college tuition. Consider taking advantage of 529 plans, which allow contributions to grow federal income tax-deferred. You can then make tax-free withdrawals to pay for qualified higher education expenses such as tuition and room and board.
  • Now you can consider other long-term goals, if your family has them. One common family financial concern is caring for aging parents. If this responsibility falls on you, think about ways you can reduce costs, such as sharing your home with your parents, in addition to saving.

Priority 3: Your family’s five-year goals

What would you and your family like to achieve in the short term? Your list might include things like a theme-park vacation, upgrading a car or remodeling your home. Now find the right savings strategy. You could open a savings account dedicated to each big-ticket item. Or see if your bank allows you to open sub-accounts under your primary savings account. Doing this helps you focus on meeting each goal. Make weekly or monthly contributions after you take care of your long-term savings. Make a plan for working toward your short-term goals by using the Bank of America Short-Term Savings Calculator.

You never know what might happen or what new family savings goals might arise. Planning for the long term and saving for the short term ensures you’re prepared for whatever comes your way.

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The material provided on this website is for informational use only and is not intended for financial, tax or investment advice. Bank of America and/or its affiliates, and Khan Academy, assume no liability for any loss or damage resulting from one’s reliance on the material provided. Please also note that such material is not updated regularly and that some of the information may not therefore be current. Consult with your own financial professional and tax advisor when making decisions regarding your financial situation.

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