What Are We Saving For?

Motorcycle.jpg In challenging economic times, having a savings nest egg is more important than ever — but our motivation for saving money also changes. What's inspiring Australians to put aside money as we get ready to enter 2009, and are we using the best tactics?The latest quarterly survey figures from the Melbourne Institute show that Australian households are now more concerned with saving than ever. Asked for their motivation for saving, 48% citied being ready for a rainy day as a motivation. When asked the same question a year ago, just 26% of people were similarly emergency-oriented. It seems clear that a year of problem economy headlines are changing our thinking. With that said, the question of whether we have anything to save is a whole other issue. Just under 36% of households are saving "a little", and just under 9% "a lot". Despite those apparent concerns, keeping money for emergencies isn't the biggest motivation for saving. The most commonly cited reason is still "saving for travel", the answer given by 49% of respondents, and the most popular response a year ago as well. One advantage of that approach is that travel savings can potentially be transformed into emergency money, though booking in advance also has its economic benefits. Many of the other popular answers suggest that our concept of saving is either short-term or fuzzy. Despite some gloom and doom predictions about this year's Christmas, saving up to purchase Christmas presents is still a popular motivation (37%). That's a useful goal, but for maximum impact you should also shop out of season, either stocking up in January sales or (in the case of kids' toys) waiting for the glut of August discount offers. Another common choice is repaying existing debts, listed by 42% of respondents. Again this is a sensible choice, but to my mind it doesn't qualify as saving: if you've got a big credit card debt to pay off, the sensible thing to do is fling money straight at it, not leave it in a bank and move it periodically. Planning for retirement (40%) is a much more straightforward savings goal. What's your motivation for saving, and how easy is it to achieve those goals? Share your tactics and traps in the comments. Lifehacker's weekly Loaded column looks at better ways to manage (and stop worrying about) your money.


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