02/24/2011 04:25 pm ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

5 Easy Goals for America Saves Week

Feb. 20 to 27, 2011 is America Saves Week, an annual event that has probably never meant much to you in the past. After all, Americans haven't exactly celebrated savings the way they do, say, independence or the Super Bowl. Still, unless you want to see your golden years downgraded to tin, or maybe even Styrofoam, you'll want to start paying attention to America Saves Week.

The best way to mark America Saves Week is to do something about it. Here are five goals for America Saves Week, one for each working day of America Saves Week:

  1. Monday: Try to budget your retirement based on your savings rates so far. Normal retirement planning starts by figuring out how much you'll need, and how to get there. Based on your savings rates over the past few years, figure out how much money you'll have in retirement. Now adjust that for inflation, and try to make a budget based on how much you'd have to live on at your current rate of saving. This exercise might shock you into getting more serious about saving for retirement.

  • Tuesday: Project when you will have your house paid off. Are you on target to pay off your mortgage before you retire? Doing so could greatly ease your monthly payment burden in retirement, and give you a valuable asset to sell if you have to make other living arrangements.
  • Wednesday: Figure out how much more you could be earning with higher savings account interest rates. Shop MoneyRates for the best rates on savings accounts, and compare them to your current savings account rate. Multiply the difference by the value of your savings account -- that's how much extra money you could have at the end of a year if you make the switch. Still think it's not worth your time?
  • Thursday: Identify the biggest waste of money in your lifestyle. Do you still have a phone line to your house when you use your cell phone almost exclusively? Do you pay for cable channels you never watch? Without knowing it, people often let thieves into their homes -- things that take extra money from you for no good reason. Here's another example to think about: Calculate how much credit card interest you paid last year. If you persistently carry a credit card balance, you are effectively paying way more for goods and services than they are worth.
  • Friday: Set a savings goal and budget around it. The point of the preceding exercises is motivation -- each one should demonstrate a clear incentive to improve your savings habits. Once the motivation is in place, you'll be ready for decisive action. Figure out what your savings rates will have to be to build towards a dignified and enjoyable retirement. Make this year's savings rate the first item in your budget. Then budget around that savings rate, doing triage on other expenses to decide which can stay and which will have to go.
  • In short, if you want to do something about raising savings rates, increasing your

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