Americans still need help with saving.

In a survey conducted in 2009, when Americans were asked if they could find a way to come up with $2,000 in a month, 50% of them said they couldn’t. Even more alarming is that more than half of Americans surveyed said that they don’t know how much they’re supposed to be saving for retirement, despite some of the respondents being about a decade away from retirement.

Some experts stipulate that in a world of credit cards and borrowing, way too many are living beyond their means and using those sources as clutches, instead of finding ways to put away money for the future.

Fast-forward to a Retirement Confidence Survey released in 2013. The Employee Benefit Research Institute found that for low-income workers earning less than $35,000 annually, only 24% of respondents  saved for retirement. Within the $35,000 to $74,999 bracket, 76% of respondents from this year say they have saved, down from the 80% from 2009.

Despite the fact that we have gradually resumed our spending activity, the economy is still sluggish and the unemployment rate is only very slowly coming down from a high 10% in September.

Current banking savings rates are tied to unemployment rates, so rates have remained low and stagnant for the last couple of years. Added to that, according to economics professor Tyler Cowen, it’s “still relatively easy for poor people to borrow in the United States, compared with, say, Japan or Europe. Both the economic incentives and the cultural norms nudge these individuals… [towards] more spending and less savings.”

But in a rough economy, it’s more important than ever to have a savings fund. U.S. medical expenses are astronomical, and with the average job search taking over 7 months (!), it’s crucial to have some cushion.

In the next few parts of this guide, we’ll show you how to get started on your own savings and the different methods that may work best for you.

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