You have probably heard (multiple times) that saving money for your future is important, but do you know how much you are actually socking away? There’s a formula to calculate your own specific personal savings rate (aka the percentage of your after-tax dollars that you’re putting away).
It’s not too complex and can be a helpful tool to see how your money management is tracking. Find out how to calculate your savings rate here.
What Information is Included in the Savings Rate Formula?
The basic formula to calculate savings rate is:
Your savings / your after-tax income = your savings rate
Once you’ve calculated your savings rate, you can use it to:
• Review how you’re doing from month to month or year to year.
• See how your current spending habits are affecting your future goals and financial independence.
• Motivate yourself to do better with your savings.
• Compare your efforts to others.
You can gather up the numbers you need to determine your savings rate (which is sometimes referred to as a savings ratio) in just a few steps:
Step 1: Add Up Your Income for the Month
Your income streams might include, after taxes: your monthly salary, the money you earned from any side gigs or from selling homemade items online, or rental income if you’re renting out a room of your home to get extra funds. Don’t forget to include money you earned that’s automatically deducted from your pay and added to a retirement account, such as a 401(k) or a traditional or Roth IRA. And add in your employer’s matching retirement plan contributions, as well.
Recommended: 39 Ways to Earn Passive Income Streams
Step 2: Add Up the Money You Put into Savings Each Month
This is about what you’re saving for the long-term, not next week. So it would include the money that’s automatically coming out of your check for retirement savings, plus your employer’s matching contributions, along with any funds you’re putting into separate savings or brokerage accounts.
Step 3: Do the Math
Divide the total amount of your long-term savings (Step 2) by the total amount of your after-tax income (Step 1). Turn the number you get into a percentage (.10 is 10%, for example), and that’s your savings rate.
You may hear or see a few variations on what’s included in the calculation. Some people don’t include their employer’s 401(k) contributions in their calculations, for instance, and some might add in extra payments they’re putting toward the principal on a student loan or other debt. The point is to be consistent with what you do or don’t include from month to month.
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How About an Example?
Let’s use Jane, whose hypothetical after-tax Income every month is $4,500. She brings in another $500, after taxes, by renting the extra bedroom in her apartment to her cousin, for a total of $5,000 a month.
Jane’s employer doesn’t offer a 401(k) plan, but on her own, Jane puts $500 a month into a Roth IRA. And she always puts another $100 a month in an online savings account she has earmarked for long-term goals. Jane’s savings amount totals $600 a month.
Using the savings rate formula, that’s $600 / $5,000 = .12, which makes Jane’s personal monthly savings rate 12%.
Of course, everyone’s numbers may not be quite so straightforward. Couples, for instance, may have to consider two or more paychecks and, possibly, two or more retirement accounts. Some individuals work more than one job or earn income from multiple sources. Some might count their emergency fund as savings, and others don’t. But the idea is the same: An individual’s or a household’s savings rate measures how much disposable income (defined by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) as after-tax income) is being set aside for long-term savings and retirement.
Why Is Knowing Your Personal Savings Rate Important?
The BEA tracks the nation’s personal savings rate from month to month to monitor Americans’ financial health and better predict consumer behavior. And you can do much the same thing with your own savings rate.
By tracking your rate on a regular basis, you can assess how you’re doing in real-time. If you’re consistently falling short of the savings goals you’ve set for yourself, you can look at what behaviors might need changing or if you need to rework your budget. You also can use the information as an incentive to do better. And you might even find it’s a fun way to compete with others close to you, with the nation’s average personal savings rate, or just against yourself.
If you saved 8% in 2023, for example, could you bump that amount to 9% or 10% in 2024? What if you got an unexpected raise or bonus: Would you have the discipline to put that amount into your savings to keep your rate the same or improve it?
Knowing your savings rate can help you make those kinds of financial decisions.
What’s a Good Savings Rate?
The average personal savings rate in the U.S. was about 4.03% in mid 2023, according to the Fed. But financial experts generally advise savers to stash away at least 10% of their income every month ($500 of a $5,000 monthly salary, for example). The popular 50/30/20 budget rule created by Sen. Elizabeth Warren suggests saving 20% of after-tax income.
If that seems extreme, it’s probably more useful to simply target a number you’re sure you can stick to monthly or annually. Just having a positive savings rate — anything above zero — can be a good starting point for building good fiscal habits and a nest egg. You can always make adjustments as you accomplish other financial goals, such as paying off student loans or credit card debt.
Isn’t Having a Good Budget Enough?
A personal budget can be a useful guide when it comes to reaching financial goals. And tracking your spending with a spreadsheet or an app can help you see where your dollars (and dimes) are actually going, as opposed to where you think they’re going—those two places might be very different.
Many people who make a budget include the amount they plan to put toward savings in their budget as a monthly expense. But that’s different from knowing your savings rate.
A savings rate provides a separate, wide-angle view of how much of what you make is going into savings. And that can help you further evaluate how you’re doing.
How Can Someone Improve Their Savings Rate?
The answer is simple: Spend less and save more.
Here are some steps that could help improve an individual’s or household’s savings rate.
Opening or Contributing More to a Retirement Account
One of the easiest ways to save more money can be to open a 401(k) or IRA, or to boost the amount that’s automatically deposited to an account you already have. After all, if you never see the money, you likely won’t be as tempted to spend it. And if you’re a long way from retirement, the money you invest should have lots of time to grow with compound interest. If your employer offers a 401(k) with a matching contribution, a goal might be to save as much as possible to maximize those funds.
Recommended: How an Employer 401(k) Match Works
Opening an Online Savings Account
If you’ve been saving s-l-o-w-l-y with a traditional type of savings account, it might be time to consider other options. Many online financial institutions, for example, offer higher interest rates for deposit accounts because they have lower overhead costs than brick-and-mortar banks, and they pass those savings on to their customers. Online accounts also may offer lower fees than traditional banks—or, in some cases, no fees.
Cut Back on Discretionary Spending
The thought of squeezing out additional dollars for savings each month might be daunting if you’re already on a tight budget. But even a little spending cut can go a long way toward nudging up your savings rate.
Let’s go back to our hypothetical saver, Jane, for an example. If Jane could manage to save just $50 more every month (or about $12 a week), she could increase her savings rate by a full percentage point — from 12% to 13%. That might mean getting takeout one less time every week. Or one less night out with the girls every month. Or maybe cutting back on streaming services she seldom uses.
Lowering Fixed Expenses
Lowering the bills that have to be paid every month can increase the amount of money that’s available for savings. That could include:
• Shopping for cheaper car insurance or a less expensive cell phone carrier
• Keeping your paid-off car for an extra year or two instead of jumping right back into another auto loan
• Refinancing to a lower interest rate on a mortgage or student loans
• Cutting the cord on cable
• Doing your own landscaping.
Ditching the Credit Card Debt
Yes, credit cards are convenient, and using your cards wisely can have a positive effect on your credit score. But the interest on credit cards is typically higher than for other types of borrowing, and it compounds, which means you could be paying interest on the interest charged on previous purchases.
If you’re carrying a balance from month to month and paying interest, you’re giving money to the credit card company that could be going into your savings account. Using a debt payoff strategy or consolidating your credit card debt with a personal loan could help you dump those credit card bills and get your savings back on track.
Putting Pay Raises Toward Savings, Not Spending
No one is suggesting that you should live ultra frugally like when you were scraping by in college or starting your career, but it might not hurt to hold on to some of those money-saving habits you had then. Otherwise, if your pay goes up and your savings stay static, your savings ratio is doomed to drop.
One last example using our hypothetical friend, Jane: If Jane got a $100-a-month raise (after taxes), but she continued putting $600 a month into savings, her savings rate would fall from 12% to just below 10%.
Saving money might not be considered exciting by everyone, but the thought of being financially secure is pretty appealing. Think of your savings rate as a mirror you can hold up every month to see how you’re doing.
Interested in opening an online bank account? When you sign up for a SoFi Checking and Savings account with direct deposit, you’ll get a competitive annual percentage yield (APY), pay zero account fees, and enjoy an array of rewards, such as access to the Allpoint Network of 55,000+ fee-free ATMs globally. Qualifying accounts can even access their paycheck up to two days early.
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SoFi members with direct deposit activity can earn 4.50% annual percentage yield (APY) on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances. Direct Deposit means a deposit to an account holder’s SoFi Checking or Savings account, including payroll, pension, or government payments (e.g., Social Security), made by the account holder’s employer, payroll or benefits provider or government agency (“Direct Deposit”) via the Automated Clearing House (“ACH”) Network during a 30-day Evaluation Period (as defined below). Deposits that are not from an employer or government agency, including but not limited to check deposits, peer-to-peer transfers (e.g., transfers from PayPal, Venmo, etc.), merchant transactions (e.g., transactions from PayPal, Stripe, Square, etc.), and bank ACH funds transfers and wire transfers from external accounts, do not constitute Direct Deposit activity. There is no minimum Direct Deposit amount required to qualify for the stated interest rate.
SoFi members with Qualifying Deposits can earn 4.50% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances. Qualifying Deposits means one or more deposits that, in the aggregate, are equal to or greater than $5,000 to an account holder’s SoFi Checking and Savings account (“Qualifying Deposits”) during a 30-day Evaluation Period (as defined below). Qualifying Deposits only include those deposits from the following eligible sources: (i) ACH transfers, (ii) inbound wire transfers, (iii) peer-to-peer transfers (i.e., external transfers from PayPal, Venmo, etc. and internal peer-to-peer transfers from a SoFi account belonging to another account holder), (iv) check deposits, (v) instant funding to your SoFi Bank Debit Card, (vi) push payments to your SoFi Bank Debit Card, and (vii) cash deposits. Qualifying Deposits do not include: (i) transfers between an account holder’s Checking account, Savings account, and/or Vaults; (ii) interest payments; (iii) bonuses issued by SoFi Bank or its affiliates; or (iv) credits, reversals, and refunds from SoFi Bank, N.A. (“SoFi Bank”) or from a merchant.
SoFi Bank shall, in its sole discretion, assess each account holder’s Direct Deposit activity and Qualifying Deposits throughout each 30-Day Evaluation Period to determine the applicability of rates and may request additional documentation for verification of eligibility. The 30-Day Evaluation Period refers to the “Start Date” and “End Date” set forth on the APY Details page of your account, which comprises a period of 30 calendar days (the “30-Day Evaluation Period”). You can access the APY Details page at any time by logging into your SoFi account on the SoFi mobile app or SoFi website and selecting either (i) Banking > Savings > Current APY or (ii) Banking > Checking > Current APY. Upon receiving a Direct Deposit or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits to your account, you will begin earning 4.50% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% on checking balances on or before the following calendar day. You will continue to earn these APYs for (i) the remainder of the current 30-Day Evaluation Period and through the end of the subsequent 30-Day Evaluation Period and (ii) any following 30-day Evaluation Periods during which SoFi Bank determines you to have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits without interruption.
SoFi Bank reserves the right to grant a grace period to account holders following a change in Direct Deposit activity or Qualifying Deposits activity before adjusting rates. If SoFi Bank grants you a grace period, the dates for such grace period will be reflected on the APY Details page of your account. If SoFi Bank determines that you did not have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits during the current 30-day Evaluation Period and, if applicable, the grace period, then you will begin earning the rates earned by account holders without either Direct Deposit or Qualifying Deposits until you have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits in a subsequent 30-Day Evaluation Period. For the avoidance of doubt, an account holder with both Direct Deposit activity and Qualifying Deposits will earn the rates earned by account holders with Direct Deposit.
Members without either Direct Deposit activity or Qualifying Deposits, as determined by SoFi Bank, during a 30-Day Evaluation Period and, if applicable, the grace period, will earn 1.20% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances.
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