Photo Credit: AsiaPix/Getty ImagesDo you have a secret money stash? You need and deserve one - so start now.
I'm pretty sure you have $3 in your wallet - or a jeans pocket, or your glove compartment, or balled up between the couch cushions. Here's what I want you to do with it: Get rid of will-I-wind-up-a-bag-lady anxiety forever. Many women I speak to say they're terrified of not having enough money put aside to take care of themselves when they're old. And they have reason to be worried: Twice as many women as men are poor in old age, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, and females have 40 percent less saved in retirement accounts than male officemates. Plus, women in the United States live an average of five years longer than men. You're nowhere near old age, but it's time to save some money for you and you alone. With my plan, you won't even miss it.
Related: Money Saving Strategies from Real Women
STEP 1: Starting this week, put aside $3 a day (weekends too!) for the entire year. You can slip three bucks into an envelope every night, schedule a weekly automatic transfer of $21 to a savings account, or move one big chunk all at once. But don't stop there - save $5 a day or more if you can, and definitely continue contributing to a 401(k) plan at work if you have one.
Related: Easy Ways to Save Money at the Supermarket
STEP 2: Fast-forward a year. What do you do with the $1,095 you've saved? Invest in the stock market through mutual funds by opening a Roth individual retirement account, or IRA, that allows your money to grow tax-free. I prefer Vanguard's STAR Fund or Schwab's Total Stock Market Index Fund: You can start with $1,000, and both charge low fees. The market will fluctuate, but many experts agree that these funds could give you a higher return rate than a bank savings account over a 20-year period.
Related: 6 Smart Ways to Stop the Money Stress In Your Marriage
STEP 3: Don't touch! If you're 35 and follow this plan until you hit 70, you'll have $129,342, if you earned an average six-percent annual return. It's not a fortune, but it'll give you a priceless sense of security about your future.
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