Consumers know they need to save more money in this new economic environment, but some still find it very hard to do. Here's a tip from the America Saves campaign: Split your direct deposit into your checking and savings accounts.
A new survey by the Consumer Federation of America (CFA) finds that although 66 percent of all employees use direct deposit, only 23 percent split their deposit into different accounts. Just 59 percent who have access to direct deposit and use it have the option to split and of those, only 39 percent choose to split their deposits.
"Many companies don't offer their employees the option to split direct deposit," said Stephen Brobeck, executive director of the CFA. "They are denying their employees a basic benefit that doesn''t cost the company any more to offer and can potentially help their employees start consistent savings programs."
A 2006 survey by NACHA — the Electronic Payments Association — showed that consumers who use direct deposit save $90 more per month than those who use another method to save.
NACHA suggests the easiest way to start a consistent savings program is to have your employer deposit just enough in your checking account to cover your expenses and have them automatically deposit the rest into your savings account through a split direct deposit.
"Just like retirement savings, if you automatically save the money, you are less likely to spend it," said Jan Estep, president and CEO of NACHA. "Splitting direct deposit is easy to set up for new employees or established Direct Deposit users. The process takes minutes to complete. Just talk to your employer."
It's a win-win situation, experts say.
"Direct deposit helps employees save money and it's free for employers to offer this benefit," said Dan Maddux, executive director of the American Payroll Association. "Employees should ask their payroll departments about direct deposit splitting options and should suggest adding the benefit if it isn't offered yet. Employers can do their part by encouraging their employees to save more by splitting their direct deposit between checking and savings accounts."
The CFA survey showed that 66 percent of all employees use direct deposit. Of those that have access to direct deposit, 78 percent use it. Of those that don't have access, 76 percent said they would use it if they had the option.
"Especially in this economy, every penny counts," said Brobeck. "Even if you only have $20 left each month after your expenses, deposit it automatically to your savings account. With this type of consistent savings, you will be well on your way to establishing a financial emergency fund, college savings program or a vacation fund."