They are age-old questions: How much do you need to feel financially secure? How much would you need to feel rich?
More than 2,500 US adults said they would need to earn, on average, $233,000 a year to feel financially secure and $483,000 annually to feel rich or to attain financial freedom, according to a new survey from Bankrate.
Just for comparison’s sake, the median earnings for a full-time, year-round worker in 2021 was $56,473, according to the US Census Bureau.
Of course, there is no objective or “right” answer to these questions. What it takes for one person to feel financially comfortable – or like they’re set for life – can depend a lot on their early childhood experiences with money, how much they perceive those around them to have, their current financial situation, the cost of living in their area and, if they’ve thought about it, what is most important to them in life.
Plus, a big income isn’t necessarily a guarantee of financial security if you’re living paycheck to paycheck, not saving much and carrying big debts.
The same goes if you’re feeling insecure about your economic prospects.
In Bankrate’s survey 72% of respondents said they did not currently feel financially secure, although 46% said they expect to someday.
The reasons cited for not feeling secure today included high inflation (63%); the economic environment (48%); insufficient emergency savings (42%); insufficient retirement savings (41%); rising interest rates (36%); low pay or low career mobility (33%); high debt (26%); and housing affordability (25%).
Wherever you find yourself financially at the moment, there is no shortage of ways to boost your financial health if you focus on what’s in your control. Here are just a few to consider:
Make it as easy as possible to pay off your credit card debt: Look for a balance-transfer card that offers you an initial 0% rate for up to 21 months, then make a plan to pay off all or most of what you owe in that period of time before a high rate kicks in again.
Take fuller advantage of the benefits on offer from your employer: Combined, these potentially can save you a lot of money (e.g., tuition reimbursement, student loan assistance, plus subsidies or discounts for everything from legal help, financial coaching and therapy to gym memberships, travel, commuting and free flu shots).
One of the most valuable benefits, however, is likely to be the matching contribution your employer may make to your 401(k). So try to save at least as much as required to get your full match. And if you’re 50 or older, you also can take advantage of the catch-up contributions you can make every year, which can not only reduce your current year tax bill but might offer you an even bigger matching contribution from your employer.
And one way to boost your own retirement savings is it to increase your contribution rate every time you get a raise.
Triage your bills when your back is against the wall: If you find yourself unable to pay all your bills in a given month, there are ways to minimize the negative fallout. They start with clearly communicating your situation to your creditors as soon as possible. Here’s how.
Look for a better paying job if you’re unhappy in your current one: Do your research to make sure you’re getting a competitive pay package for the role you want. That means first tallying up what your entire compensation package is today (including the value of health insurance subsidies, 401(k) matches, stock options, paid time off, etc.). That way you can better compare it to what might be offered to you by an organization that wants to hire you.
Take advantage too of new salary transparency laws in many places. Employers increasingly are having to include a pay range in their job ads. Those ranges, while not the last word on what you might get paid, at least will give you a better sense of what is considered competitive pay for the type of position you’re looking for, and at least will establish the minimum you should expect to be paid.
Then prepare to negotiate on your own behalf when you do get a job offer. Among negotiators’ top tips: First understand the other party’s motivations and constraints and keep your emotions in check at all times.
Spend money on what matters most to you: If you can become clear about what matters most to you, it makes it easier to cut down your spending on things that really don’t matter to you but have become a habit.
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