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Hannah McQueen deals with thousands of clients from all socioeconomic backgrounds and said that one thing is clear: "People are quite good at being a bit useless with their money.”

"The main area people go wrong with savings is that they aren't doing it," McQueen said.

A lot of people don't know what to aim for and they've got no measure of what's an acceptable of level of savings and in the absence of a goal they don't tend to try."

McQueen, the founder and director of financial training service EnableMe, works with people on salaries from $40,000 to $1m.

"They all have the same thing in common - they all want to be managing their money better and think they could be saving more.

"The tricky thing is that money, like food, is emotional - just because you know what you should be doing, like saving or eating less or exercising more, doesn't mean you'll actually do it. A lot of people need a personal financial trainer to keep them motivated and accountable to their goals."

She starts by outlining the fundamentals.

"When you're saving, what you are really doing is growing your wealth - and we have an obligation as individuals to at least grow our wealth to a level where we can fund our own retirement.

"Those savings might look like putting money into a savings account, buying shares or property, paying off your mortgage quicker or reducing debt."

Next comes goal setting.

"A lot of people don't know what they are capable of saving, they don't know what they want to achieve so they don't hit targets.

"If you're able to save 20 per cent of your net income, you're doing awesome. If you're saving less than 10 per cent, you're average, and if you're saving less than 5 per cent, you're in the poor-savings category."

McQueen said that people should be aiming to save about 10 - 20 per cent of their pay packets.

"Those in the lower socioeconomic group are always going to struggle to get ahead but it is the medium to upper (socioeconomic groups) who have enough money but they are still struggling to save."

Fred Dodds, chief executive of the institute of financial advisers agrees that goal setting is the first, and most important step.

"Set up a bank account that allows you to make weekly deposits but not regular withdrawals. Not only are your savings 'safe' from the urge to spend, you can earn interest as you save," Dodds said.

And when it comes to your variable expenses: "Shop around, looking for a cheaper option is always a good way to save money. Don't always settle for the first thing you see."

Then start cutting back on things you don't need: "You will quickly see how the little things add up to big dollars."

McQueen suggests that perhaps a change of attitude is in order for people to save better.

"Don't think about what you're going to have to give up, but what savings is going to give you."

Do you agree with this advice?

Written by Nicole Lawton. First appeared on Stuff.co.nz.

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