Couple planning their finances on the kitchen

Source: kate_sept2004 / Getty

You’ve probably heard sayings such as, “save a dollar for a rainy day” or “a penny saved is a penny earned.” Right now, at this moment in your life, they may mean nothing. Especially if you’ve never been laid off without an emergency fund or experienced a prolonged period of financial hardship. The reality is that even if you’ve never been in complete dire straits, there will likely be a time when you wished you’d saved a little more money when you could have. But you can change your habits today.

A recent study by found that participants’ biggest financial regret was not saving early enough for retirement—not having enough money in an emergency fund was a close second. When it comes to building your financial security, experts note that stashing a little money away isn’t enough. You need to incrementally increase your savings goals as you earn more money to ensure you have enough to meet your retirement needs.

Another tip: Create savings incentives. Based on the study, people are less likely to save without explicit, clear goals. To accomplish that feat, experts suggest creating specific dollar amounts for various money pots. For example, your emergency fund goal shouldn’t just be an arbitrary amount to sustain you for six months— it should include what that exact amount would be (ex. $15,560). The same goes for accounts created for down payments on your home and retirement.

And how do you come up with how much to save for your golden years? suggests starting with 11 times your annual income. Since your income should increase over time, the number will move up periodically. Accommodate this by updating the goal amount each time you get a raise.

Living a life without financial stress is within your reach. Plan to be all good, and you will be.