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When your wheels are turning as often as they can and ends still don’t meet, regularly putting away money for critical needs becomes a fantasy. But if you’re simply waiting for the right time to start saving – for fuel to go down, freight to pick up, etc. – you might as well turn the page. As soon as one thing improves, something else is sure to go wrong.
Owner-operators do a fair job of funding a maintenance or emergency account for business operations: Half do so, according to Overdrive research. Doug Kozeny of Truckers Professional Services in Omaha, Neb., stresses maintenance accounts with his 950 owner-operator clients and gets 90 percent or more in the habit.
But the real gators on many owner-operator career paths are the more personal savings goals, and retirement tops the list in terms of importance and neglect. It’s particularly tough for those who are not longtime owner-operators, Kozeny says.
“I don’t have any money” is the common excuse Russ Fullingim hears for not saving from clients at Truckers Financial Service in Corning, Calif. Sad thing is, it’s true for those who don’t control spending or otherwise make bad financial decisions.
“At least 10 people I know of have refinanced their houses,” Fullingim says. “This really upsets me, especially when these people are in their 60s.” One couple, he says, netted $150,000 on $272,000 in revenue “and claimed they’re broke.”
So get professional help for your business if those constantly turning wheels are digging a deeper rut in the mud. And as soon as you can, start saving for retirement, a child’s college fund or other major goals, even if the amount is small. Here are two tactics for jumping in:
START A BANK DRAFT. Ask your bank to transfer a set monthly amount from your checking account to an Individual Retirement Account or other long-term savings account. The money migrates automatically, and you (almost) never miss it. It’s like another settlement deduction, only this one stays in your camp. Obviously, you need to ensure there’s enough to cover the payment. Of his clients who save, Kozeny says, about half use a bank draft.
SPLIT NEW MONEY. If your pay increases thanks to a change in rates or a switch in carriers, customers or applications, allocate part of the raise to savings. Every time you’re tempted to spend it all, remind yourself you’re not missing the gravy you haven’t tasted yet.
Stick to your guns
Two Yale University economists’ behavioral research found that people who put stakes on the table — either their money or their reputation — are far more likely to achieve a goal. The researchers tested “commitment contracts” and found they worked.
Now they have a website, www.stickk.com, to help people who want that more formal approach to achieving goals. The site has some preset programs for common needs, such as wanting to exercise regularly or give up smoking, free of charge.
It also allows setting up custom contracts, such as personal savings. Suppose you want to save $200 a month for a year. You designate a referee to monitor progress and family and friends who will encourage you and check your progress online. You state your reward for reaching the finish line.
And if you’re really serious, you can stick your neck out and devise some punishment. One way is to fund a stickk.com account at, say, $500. You designate a recipient – one you support (a worthy charity) or one you detest (a certain dispatcher), depending on the type of motivation you need. Every month you fail, $50 goes to that recipient.