Finance Expert Shares How To Start A Savings When You've Literally Never Had One - Exclusive

Although most of us would love to have a savings account to rely on in hard times, it doesn't always feel financially possible to make that a reality. Short-term needs often outweigh long-term aspirations, and this has left many young people without a savings account. In fact, a recent survey found that 68% of people were concerned they wouldn't be able to cover their expenses for even one month if they were to lose their primary source of income. Even worse, millennial women/femme people were found to be the group most likely to not have any savings at all.

Between ever-increasing rent, inflation, and student loan debt, people across the country are facing financial hardships in their everyday life, which can make the concept of saving money feel impossible. While balancing financials can be a difficult skill to master on its own, adding a savings plan on top of this can feel particularly overwhelming for those who've never had one before. Luckily, personal finance expert Hannah Williams at Salary Transparent Street spoke exclusively with to give us the best advice on how to start a savings account and, most importantly, stick with it.

Find the right bank

If you're asking yourself, "Aren't all banks the same?" the answer is no! Some banks are better options for making the most of your money, so even though you might still be using an old college bank account from your younger years, consider upgrading to something new with better benefits. Hannah Williams explained, "What you want to look for is a bank that doesn't charge you a monthly fee, doesn't have an obscene minimum balance requirement, and offers a competitive APY (annual percentage yield)."

If you're unsure why APY is important, it's important to know that APY is essentially the amount of interest your account will earn annually. Williams further elaborated, "Your goal is to find a safe space to put your savings that will grow as it sits there untouched." This interest only applies to whatever amount is in the account, so having a set savings account that you don't withdraw from often will ensure your amount continues to grow. APY rates can have wide variability amongst banks but can make a huge difference to your balance in the long term. High-yield APY accounts can sometimes have higher minimums or restrictions on deposits/withdrawals, so always do your research before committing to a bank. (NerdWallet has a solid list if you're looking for somewhere to start.)

Set a goal

While the rule of thumb used to be that 20% of your income should go into your savings, that is increasingly less possible thanks to inflation and, well, life. With that in mind, even small amounts mean you're making progress, and setting a goal for yourself can help you stay motivated during those more frugal months. Williams said, "Set a goal for your savings account, typically this is about 3-6 months of your emergency expenses. Having a goal in mind simplifies the savings process, and shows you a light at the end of the tunnel."

Having this kind of emergency fund can be extremely important for women and LGBTQ+ community members (remember Paulette Perhach's infamous "F**k Off Fund" piece?). Having the financial security of even just a few months of your expenses can ensure you remain empowered to be able to leave any work or home situations that are abusive, negative, or simply don't serve you anymore. 

Financial independence can also be a key ingredient in maintaining your mental health. A 2021 report showed that financial concerns were directly related to higher levels of psychological distress. This distress can lead to physical ramifications like exhaustion, heart disease, and even reduce your immune system response. Having and pursuing a set financial goal (however large or small) can help you avoid the emotional spiral of financial insecurity.


"Pull together a standard budget to help you understand how much money you have left over each month after you've paid your rent/mortgage, utilities, loan dues, and any other mandatory payments, and contribute an approachable portion of what's left to your savings", Williams explained. She also mentioned how helpful it can be to analyze your current spending habits. By taking a thoughtful look at where the largest chunks of your money are going, you can better decide just how essential those things are. If you find that activities like shopping or even restaurant bills are eating up large chunks of your budget, consider reducing those expenditures. Whether that means eating out less or exploring less expensive slow fashion alternatives, there are many creative solutions to look into.

What about debt? A recent survey found that 36% of U.S. adults have more credit card debt than they have emergency savings (the highest rate since 2011). So, if you're wondering how you're supposed to save while also handling debt, Williams offered this reminder: "Using your budget, make sure that you're paying your minimum debt repayments first before contributing to your savings. You don't want to default on your debt or fall behind on repayments, but you want to find a careful balance where you can still make your payments and save on the side." Your monthly contributions to savings might be less than you hope for while you're still tackling your debt, but remember that even small progress is progress.

Move at your own pace

One of the most important things to remember about saving money is that there aren't any rules attached to the process. Some months will be financially easier than others, and the unpredictability of life can often get in the way of even our best-laid plans. "There's no scoreboard when it comes to savings. If some months you contribute less than others, don't get down on yourself! You're still contributing and moving ahead at your own pace. Consistency is the name of the game when it comes to building up your savings," Williams said. As hard as it can be to look at a low balance in your savings account, it's important to save in a responsible way.

If you need extra help managing your budget every month, try out a budgeting or savings app or even consider different budget methods to find the right one for you. Making sure that your savings plan still allows you to comfortably live your life is key to ensuring you stick with the process. Even small monthly contributions can change your life down the road. With that being said, remember to not prioritize your savings budget over your immediate needs (like bills, rent, and debt payments), so you can ensure that you stay financially solid in the present while also contributing to your future.