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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Developing further skills can boost your career at any stage.

Whether you are looking for a new job or trying to grow in your current one, getting a certification can be a great way to improve your skills.

Anyone can put that they are proficient in a computer program on their resume but having a certificate can help you stand out amongst the competition and give credence to the strength of your skills.

But what's the best way to invest in yourself without breaking the bank? Some certification programs can cost hundreds if not thousands of dollars. We are going to walk through six of the best certifications you can get for $100 or less.

Tableau

Tableau's data visualization capabilities are comparable to Domo and Power BI.

Who is it best for: Those who work with analyzing and presenting data.

Cost: $100 for Tableau Desktop Specialist; additional certifications are available for a larger fee.

More companies than ever see themselves as data companies. Being able to understand data and use it to guide decisions at your company is often critical to taking on a leadership role. Not to mention, being able to present the data in a clean, attractive, and compelling way can help get buy-in from others in your organization or clients. That's why Tableau is a great tool to have in your toolbox.

Tableau allows you to create interactive visual analytics dashboards. In layman's terms, you can take data; create graphs, maps, or charts; and then allow end-users to interact with these graphics to better understand the information. It's a fantastic tool allowing non-technical users to gain insights for data-driven decision-making.

Tableau Desktop Specialist certification starts at $100 and has no expiration date. There are many videos on Tableau's site to prepare for your exam as well as Tableau Starter Kits allowing you to play around and learn the different capabilities of the program. Tableau offers a 14-day free trial as well as free license for one year for students.

Additional certifications after Desktop Specialist are Desktop Associate and Desktop Professional. Those working with a Tableau server may also be interested in a separate certification as a Server Associate or Server Professional.

The Federal Reserve sets the guardrails for the federal funds rate, and through that helps control the money supply for the nation.

When you take out a loan for a car, charge something to your credit card, or get a personal line of credit, there is going to be an interest rate that applies to your loan.

A lot of different factors go into what you will be charged, including your own personal credit score. But even those with flawless credit still see a minimum charge that they can't get around. That all goes back to the Federal Funds Rate.

One thing consumers rarely realize is that all of our banks are lending money to each other every night. Banks are legally required to maintain a certain percentage of their deposits in non-interest-bearing accounts at the Federal Reserve to ensure they have enough money to cover any withdrawals that may unexpectedly come up. However, deposits can fluctuate and it's very common for some banks to exceed the requirement on certain days while some fall short. In cases like this, banks actually lend each other money to ensure they meet the minimum balance. It's a bit hard to imagine these multibillion-dollar financial institutions needing to borrow money to tide them over for a bit, but it happens every single night at the Federal Reserve. It's also a nice deal for those with balances above the reserve balance requirement to earn a bit of money with cash that would normally just be sitting there.

The Federal Reserve The Federal Reserve


The exact interest rate the banks will charge each other is a matter of negotiation between them, but the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) (the arm of the Federal Reserve that sets monetary policy) meets eight times a year to set a target rate. They evaluate a multitude of economic indicators including unemployment, inflation, and consumer confidence to decide the best rate to keep the country in business. The weighted average of all interest rates across these interbank loans is the effective federal funds rate.

This rate has a huge impact on the economy overall as well as your personal finances. The federal funds rate is essentially the cheapest money available to a bank and that feeds into all of the other loans they make. Banks will add a slight upcharge to the rate set by the Fed to determine what is the lowest interest that they will announce for their most creditworthy customers, also known as the prime rate. If you have a variable interest rate loan (very common with credit cards and some student loans), it's likely that the interest rate you pay is a set percentage on top of that prime rate that your lender is paying. That's why in times of low interest rates (it was set at 0% during the Great Recession), a lot of borrowers should go for fixed interest rate loans that won't increase. However, if the federal funds rate was relatively high (it went up to 20% in the early 1980's), a variable interest rate loan may be a better decision as you would be charged less interest should the rate drop without the need to refinance.

The federal funds rate also has a major impact on your investment portfolio. The stock market reacts very strongly to any changes in interest rates from the Federal Reserve, as a lower rate makes it cheaper for companies to borrow and reinvest while a higher rate may restrict capital and slow short-term growth. If you have a significant portion of your investments in equities, a small change in the federal funds rate can have a large impact on your net worth.

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Whether you're leaving a job involuntarily, departing for something new, or just want to prepare for the unknown, it is smart to understand all your options regarding your 401k.

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