On other pages in this guide you will find work sheets designed to help you estimate how much you need to save to reach two common goals in financial planning: college costs and retirement living.
But there are many other reasons to save. Shorter-term goals -- the down payment on a house, for example, or a boat or a motor home -- require saving. The accompanying table, supplied by Burt Associates Inc. of Bethesda, will help you figure how much you would need to put aside each year to reach such a target.
Planner Marvin Burt said you should be careful in defining short-term goals and in setting up strategies to pursue them. You don't want, for example, to take money from your retirement savings to buy a boat.
If your budget is tight and you have trouble disciplining yourself, he said it is a good idea to set up a separate account. "Call it 'boat account,' or 'house account' and accumulate cash in it and then invest the money when the total is large enough.
Burt also cautioned that volatile investments such as stocks are not a good idea for short-term goals because their value may fall just as you are getting set to sell. Bonds, too, present some of the same risks, so he advised matching maturities. If you want the money in five years, buy a bond that matures in five years. The table shows the annual amount required to save up $10,000 at different interest rates in one to five years. Pick the rate you think you will be able to get and the number of years in which you wish to save $10,000 and the number opposite the years and below the rate is the amount you'll have to save each year.
The table is slightly optimistic, however. For simplicity, it assumes you put the amount listed into savings on Jan. 1 of each year. If you put it aside in increments, say monthly, which is more likely, it will take you slightly longer to reach your target.