Americans want $76,000 in savings to be 'comfortable': Here are 3 ways to get there

If you need money to pay bills or build savings, you don’t have to take on extra work to get paid.

Omar Faruk | Twenty20

Americans would need, on average, $76,750 in the bank to feel "comfortable" about their financial situation, according to a new survey from savings and investing app Acorns, which polled 2,000 adults. The question is how to get there.

About a third of workers, 34%, have picked up a side hustle outside their normal job to earn and save more in case the coronavirus pandemic triggers an unexpected expense or cuts their income. But while delivering groceries or taking surveys online can be great ways to get paid, only 19%, or an additional fifth of the poll takers, say they actually want an extra gig.

Just 23% of those ages 35 to 44 want to start a side hustle, the survey shows. And only 20% of older adults, ages 45 to 54, want the same.

Whether you need extra money to catch up on bills or just to bolster your savings, you don't have to take on extra work to get there. Here are three alternative steps you can take to increase your cash flow and help secure your financial future. 

Ask for more money at work

It can pay to ask for a raise at your job. Use a salary calculator to get a sense of what people at your level in your profession typically make. That can estimate your market value against people in your industry.

You might also try talking to your human resources department to get a more specific range of employee salaries in your position. That way, you can set realistic expectations about value.

Before heading into a negotiation with your boss, be sure to know what you've accomplished there. Note concrete, detailed examples of times you have taken the lead on a project or received acknowledgment or accolades that can support your argument, experts suggest.

Be strategic about when you ask for more, too, as many companies are still experiencing financial difficulties.

"Now is the time to pay close attention," Aaron Ansel, the chief executive officer of Puraka Masks, a company that started as a side job, tells Grow. "Is demand for your skill set waxing or waning? If it's increasing, then time to ask for a raise. If it's waning … now might be a good time to pivot."

Coronavirus: How to negotiate a raise during a pandemic

Video by Mariam Abdallah

Spend less and save more

The Acorns poll shows that simply having better organizational tools can help young Americans get their finances in order: Of the survey respondents aged 18 to 24, nearly 30% say the fact that they don't maintain a budget keeps them from stashing more away.

Making one isn't hard. Dan Ariely, the chief behavioral economist at Qapital and co-author of the book "Dollars and Sense" recommends starting from scratch and listing out all your critical monthly expenses first. That includes housing, food, and health care, for example.

Once those bills are accounted for, you can add other important costs to your plan and see where you can cut back. Take a critical look at your spending patterns, Dorothy E. Bossung, a certified financial planner and executive vice president of Lowery Asset Consulting, recently told Grow. "Where is your income going? Is there a 'leak in the system'? Tracking down how you spend your money now will help you approximate how much money you will need."

Earn money for nothing

With any income left over after addressing the essentials, pay yourself first. Make a priority of adding to your emergency fund or personal savings regardless of what your other financial obligations are.

While experts say it's OK to go holiday shopping and spend on the things that make you happy, strive to do it responsibly.

"It is still important to have money in the bank to pay bills on time and avoid high credit card balances," Shazia Virji, vice president of Credit Sesame tells Grow. "It helps make it easier for you to recover financially once you are back on your feet" if you suffer a loss.

What is a high yield savings account?

Video by Stephen Parkhurst

Set aside a portion of money for yourself in a high-yield savings account. Unlike traditional savings accounts, high-yield vehicles can offer compound interest. The high annual percentage yield, APY, lets you make hundreds just by keeping money in the account.

Nationwide, the average APY is on savings accounts is 0.05%, per the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, or more than 16 times less than what the highest-yield accounts offer.

Americans are actively thinking about their financial futures, the Acorns poll shows. Many respondents say they took on a side hustle to reach their financial goals more quickly.

How much income you need depends on your personal situation. Check out these 6 coronavirus-safe side gigs if you need a bit extra. Otherwise, keep an eye on your budget.

Grow is produced in partnership with Acorns and CNBC. Here's how to participate in the Acorns Career Day on October 29.

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