The Path to Financial Freedom: Navigating the Savings Hierarchy

Oct 20, 2023

Man With Coins

Managing your savings amidst numerous expenses and attractive spending options can feel quite complicated. But don’t worry, it doesn’t have to be a confusing maze. By understanding a basic framework called The Savings Hierarchy, you can make this task much simpler. This helpful guide assists individuals and couples in prioritizing their savings effectively, making sure important financial goals are met in an organized way. Let's dive into this approach to better direct your savings where they'll make the most impact.

1. Start with an Emergency Fund:

Start your savings journey with a solid emergency fund; think of it as your financial safety net. It’s there to catch you when unexpected things happen, like medical emergencies or losing a job. Try to save enough to cover three to six months' worth of living expenses. Having this backup allows you to handle surprises more easily, keeping the rest of your finances more stable.

2. Free Yourself from High-Interest Debts:

Once a basic emergency fund is established, directing savings towards eliminating high-interest debts becomes paramount. Credit card debts, payday loans, or any debt with interest rates that significantly supersede potential investment returns should be prioritized. Removing these debts not only frees up more income for savings and investments but also alleviates financial stress, creating a conducive environment for wealth accumulation.

3. Dive into Employer-Sponsored Retirement Accounts:

Utilizing employer-sponsored retirement accounts like 401(k)s or 403(b)s is the next step up the hierarchy. These accounts come with the allure of tax advantages and often employer-matching contributions, which amplify your savings. Prioritize contributing enough to secure any available employer match—this is essentially "free money" that catalyzes the growth of your retirement savings.

4. Maximizing Health Savings Accounts (HSAs):

HSAs are powerful tools in your financial toolkit, offering a robust strategy for managing healthcare expenses with impressive tax advantages. Interestingly, if you can avoid tapping into your HSA in the early years, it can act as a remarkable savings vessel. It might seem counterintuitive, but letting your HSA funds grow untouched amplifies your long-term savings, as it enjoys triple tax benefits.

However, it’s essential to remember that the primary purpose of an HSA is to cover healthcare costs, so definitely utilize it when necessary. By managing your HSA strategically, you create a versatile savings bucket that significantly bolsters your financial resilience.

5. Max Out Employer-Sponsored Retirement Plans If Possible:

After exploring HSAs, it's a good idea to circle back to your employer-sponsored retirement accounts. If your budget allows, try to max out these accounts. Doing so will let you reap the full benefits of tax advantages and compounded growth, bringing your retirement goals closer to reality. Remember, contributing more to your retirement now can make a significant difference in the long run, providing you with a more comfortable and secure future.

6. Next Steps: IRAs and Other Investments:

If you’ve successfully maxed out your employer-sponsored retirement accounts and HSA, give yourself a pat on the back! Next up is considering how to further diversify and grow your savings. Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs) are a great option, offering additional tax benefits that can be a boon for your retirement savings.

Also, think about your short and medium-term goals. Do you want to buy a house, start a business, or go on a dream vacation? For goals like these, you might want to start saving in a taxable account where your money is more accessible.

Remember, it’s all about balancing your saving and investment strategies to match your personal financial goals and timelines. Tailoring your approach this way ensures that your money is working effectively across different areas to secure and enrich your financial future.

7. Build a Bigger Emergency Fund:

Let’s get back to your emergency fund and think bigger. Aim to have enough savings to cover up to a year’s worth of living expenses. A larger emergency fund means a stronger financial safety net, giving you more freedom and security to navigate life’s various phases and opportunities.


Working through the savings hierarchy is all about staying flexible and making adjustments as your financial situation and goals change. It's like having a trusted map that guides you through a successful financial journey, helping you meet your goals and achieve lasting prosperity. Remember, achieving financial freedom is a long-term game. Stay patient and consistent, and you'll find the journey rewarding.