Saving is easier said than done, especially when we're rewarded for spending.
According to the annual Savings Survey released again this February by America Saves, a national group of banks, businesses and organizations devoted to helping Americans save money, the number of Americans who have sufficient savings to weather emergencies has declined again to just 66 percent and fewer than 42 percent have a savings plan with specific goals. But according to experts, the way to get started is to start small.
Financial expert Dave Ramsey, author of "The Total Money Makeover," is the loudest proponent of starting with a small emergency-fund goal of just $1,000. He told me how this simple small step can change your life for the better. "Emergencies simply become inconveniences because you will have a cash cushion to rely on that wasn't there before. Once you start saving, your financial life becomes full of possibilities for college funds for your kids, retirement and charity that you never thought possible," he said.
So, I was thrilled to read about some new savings accounts and reward programs for saving instead of spending, just in time for 2012 America Saves Week this Feb. 19-26.
One is SaveUp.com, which is a free program that is partnered with AmericaSaves.org. When you link your bank and debt accounts on the site, you receive points for every dollar you deposit to savings or use to pay down debt. You redeem these points for chances to win cash and prizes from national retailers. Fear not, the website is encrypted with bank-level security.
And this February, Halifax Bank in the U.K. launched a new Junior Cash ISA, or Individual Savings Account, which protects deposits from taxes until a child is 18 or until withdrawal after that. But here's the kicker: The Junior Cash ISA has a competitive interest rate to start, which doubles when the person with parental responsibility for the child also has their own ISA with Halifax. Other U.K. banks are expected to follow suit. How about it, U.S.?
In January, Hancock Bank and Trust, with six locations in Kentucky, offered a new account called Green Rewards Savings. It is linked to the Green Rewards Checking account, which already earns 2.15 percent annual percentage yield, or APY, (as of Feb. 17, 2012) and provides nationwide ATM fee refunds. These earnings and fee refunds are automatically deposited in the Green Rewards Savings account, where they earn another round of interest at 0.75 percent APY.
Will you try SaveUp? What is your bank doing to reward savings during America Saves Week?