Photo by Fabian Blank on Unsplash

Making money is hard. Keeping it is harder. No matter how much it's drilled into our brains to save, save, save, the income we earn seems to flow into our bank accounts just as quickly as it flows out. The fact is, about 40% percent of Americans who earn over $100,000 a year can't seem to save, according to a GoBankingRates survey. Sure it's important to save for emergencies, but the goal is to have enough to invest, so that we earn much more and work much less—maybe even not at all. It sounds great, in theory. So why is the struggle to save so real?

Our brains could be to blame

Really. A team of neuroscientists at Cornell University found that 90 percent of participants in their study chose to earn more than they save. Because the emphasis on making money seems like an effort all its own, when it comes time to put the money into a savings plan, we're spent, if you excuse the pun. "It's rational from the brain's perspective: You must earn before you can save," Adam K. Anderson, associate professor at Cornell University's College of Human Ecology and co-author of the report, tells CNBC. "It could partly be cultural," he says. "We brag about work ethic and earnings, but we don't talk about coming up with a cool savings plan."

Our goals are too abstract or long-term

The other issue is that earning money provides an immediate reward, while saving that money is only rewarding in the abstract and hinges on future plans—buying a house, retiring—which may feel like pipe dreams when you're scraping to save.

One thing you can do is set up mini-milestones that feel actually feasible in the short-term—think buying a new appliance, taking a vacation or redoing your closet. Saving enough to reach smaller, more accessible goals gets you in the habit of saving period. And that's a whole lot better than not saving at all.

We have instant access to shiny things

It's not just you. 79 percent of Americans shop on their phones or laptops, with 15% buying stuff online on a weekly basis, according to a recent Pew Research study. When you can purchase anything with the click of a button, you're less likely to feel the immediate impact of your purchase on your bank account.

Social media makes our shopping impulses even harder to turn off. Between Facebook ads and Instagram influencers, we're bombarded with dangling carrots we think we need in the moment.

"We are socially comparative creatures by nature," psychologist and author Nancy Irwin tells MarketWatch. "[People] feel inferior if someone they know has a shinier or bigger toy than they do."

One thing to do is delete your auto-saved credit card from e-commerce sites you frequent so that it's harder to shop instantly. You might consider taking a break from Paypal, ApplePay and other insta-payment sites so that you're forced to manually enter your information before you shop. That lag time could make all the difference.

All those subscription services are killing us

Technology doesn't just suck you into one-time purchases, but monthly subscriptions as well. So all those creature comforts like Netflix and Spotify that we've come to rely on add up to more bills we often forget about. "Our issue is we're spending before we even save and then never look back," Brandon Hayes, a financial planner, tells MarketWatch. "With a cashless society, it's tough to appreciate a dollar when you never see one."

Creating a monthly budget and reading your credit card statements closely will both help you eyeball your spending habits and weigh your options about subscription services that may not be worth it to you in the long run.

We never know when the next paycheck is coming

In a gig economy with over 53 million freelancers, it's hard to feel entirely confident when and from where your next paycheck is coming. That makes signing up for an automatic savings plan seem riskier than it might be if you had a steady, unfluctuating income. One thing to consider is a no-fee online savings account you can dip into when needed.

You can set up micro-auto-payments just to get into the habit of socking money away and up the number as your workflow builds. There are also micro-saving tools that allow you to transfer as little as $1 from your account—as much as a cup of coffee. Setting up daily auto transfers of a buck may seem like petty cash at first but it adds up over time.

We just can't afford to

Between credit card debt, student loans, the rising costs of rent and bare necessities, 65% of us aren't saving a penny—and our biggest problem is our expenses. The best thing to do is to create a budget.

There are some easy-to-use online budgeting tools that make the task much less daunting. This will help you figure out how much is going in and out of your account, and ultimately where you can cut the fat so that you have a little bit leftover to sock away.

The whole thing gives us anxiety

In a world with too many options, even when it comes to choosing a savings plan, where do you start? The good news: technology is not totally the enemy. There are plenty of online resources that have done the work for you. Here's a breakdown different types of savings plan to decide which one is right for you. And here are some questions to ask yourself before you dive in head first. A little research will give you the confidence to hone in on your own research and set up an account that makes the most sense for your situation.

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Over two years into the most momentous event in our lives the world has changed forever … Some of us have PTSD from being locked up at home, some are living like everything’s going to end tomorrow, and the rest of us are merely trying to get by. When the pandemic hit we entered a perpetual state of vulnerability, but now we’re supposed to return to normal and just get on with our lives.

What does that mean? Packed bars, concerts, and grocery shopping without a mask feel totally strange. We got used to having more rules over our everyday life, considering if we really had to go out or keeping Zooming from our living rooms in threadbare pajama bottoms.

The work-from-home culture changed it all. Initially, companies were skeptical about letting employees work remotely, automatically assuming work output would fall and so would the quality. To the contrary, since March of 2020 productivity has risen by 47%, which says it all. Employees can work from home and still deliver results.

There are a number of reasons why everyone loves the work from home culture. We gained hours weekly that were wasted on public transport, people saved a ton of money, and could work from anywhere in the world. Then there were the obvious reasons like wearing sweats or loungewear all week long and having your pets close by. Come on, whose cat hasn’t done a tap dance on your keyboard in the middle of that All Hands Call!

Working from home grants the freedom to decorate your ‘office’ any way you want. But then people needed a change of environment. Companies began requesting their employees' RTO, thus generating the Hybrid Work Model — a blend of in-person and virtual work arrangements. Prior to 2020, about 20% of employees worked from home, but in the midst of the pandemic, it exploded to around 70%.

Although the number of people working from home increased and people enjoyed their flexibility, politicians started calling for a harder RTW policy. President Joe Biden urges us with, “It’s time for Americans to get back to work and fill our great downtowns again.”

While Boris Johnson said, “Mother Nature does not like working from home.'' It wasn’t surprising that politicians wanted people back at their desks due to the financial impact of working from the office. According to a report in the BBC, US workers spent between $2,000 - $5,000 each year on transport to work before the pandemic.

That’s where the problem lies. The majority of us stopped planning for public transport, takeaway coffee, and fresh work-appropriate outfits. We must reconsider these things now, and our wallets are paying

the price. Gas costs are at an all-time high, making public transport increase their fees; food and clothes are all on a steep incline. A simple iced latte from Dunkin’ went from $3.70 to $3.99 (which doesn’t seem like much but 2-3 coffees a day with the extra flavors and shots add up to a lot), while sandwiches soared by 14% and salads by 11%.

This contributes to the pressure employees feel about heading into the office. Remote work may have begun as a safety measure, but it’s now a savings measure for employees around the world.

Bloomberg are offering its US staff a $75 daily commuting stipend that they can spend however they want. And other companies are doing the best they can. This still lends credence to ‘the great resignation.’ Initially starting with the retail, food service, and hospitality sectors which were hard hit during the pandemic, it has since spread to other industries. By September 2021, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics reported 4.4 million resignations.

That’s where the most critical question lies…work from home, work from the office or stick to this new hybrid world culture?

Borris Johnson thinks, “We need to get back into the habit of getting into the office.” Because his experience of working from home “is you spend an awful lot of time making another cup of coffee and then, you know, getting up, walking very slowly to the fridge, hacking off a small piece of cheese, then walking very slowly back to your laptop and then forgetting what it was you’re doing.”

While New York City Mayor Eric Adams says you “can't stay home in your pajamas all day."

In the end, does it really matter where we work if efficiency and productivity are great? We’ve proven that companies can trust us to achieve the same results — or better! — and on time with this hybrid model. Employees can be more flexible, which boosts satisfaction, improves both productivity and retention, and improves diversity in the workplace because corporations can hire through the US and indeed all over the world.

We’ve seen companies make this work in many ways, through virtual lunches, breakout rooms, paint and prosecco parties, and — the most popular — trivia nights.

As much as we strive for normalcy, the last two years cannot simply be erased. So instead of wiping out this era, it's time to embrace the change and find the right world culture for you.

What would get you into the office? Free lunch? A gym membership? Permission to hang out with your dog? Some employers are trying just that.

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Did you hear about the Great Resignation? It isn’t over. Just over two years of pandemic living, many offices are finally returning to full-time or hybrid experiences. This is causing employees to totally reconsider their positions.

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