This week is America Saves Week

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After a tough economic year where we saw gas prices more than $4 a gallon; increased food prices; the mortgage meltdown and the credit crisis, it's clear that establishing a savings cushion is imperative to financial well-being. Financial experts agree that having a rainy day fund can make the difference between a minor financial setback and a major financial disaster.

Unfortunately, surveys released by the Consumer Federation of America and the Financial Planning Association found that more than 20 percent of Americans think that winning the lottery is the most practical way for them to accumulate wealth.

The experts at Money Management International (MMI) and the America Saves Coalition know that you do not have to be rich to accumulate wealth. Saving the recommended 2-3 months worth of salary can be a daunting task, but it's important to take small steps towards your goal, and not become defeated by minor setbacks.

This week, February 22 - March 1, is , created to bring awareness to the importance of saving for the future and help consumers reach their saving goals.

As motivation, consider the following reasons for establishing a savings cushion.

Things don't always go according to plan. Unfortunately, bad things sometimes happen to good people. In fact, bankruptcy filers often site an "unforeseen" event as the cause of their financial demise. By learning to expect the unexpected, you can keep a minor financial setback from turning into a major financial crisis.

No one cares more about your finances than you. If you're seeking someone to look out for your financial best interest, it is time to take a look in the mirror. Relinquishing control of your financial future is a mistake. No one-not even the government, your employer, or your accountant-cares as much about your finances as you do.

A little money saved can add up to big savings. Making a down payment on a major purchase can really pay off. For example, making a down payment of 20 percent or more on a mortgage will likely afford you more attractive overall terms. Furthermore, having available cash can help you avoid borrowing from expensive credit cards in an emergency.

The eighth wonder of the world is compound interest. If you put $1,000 in a savings vehicle that earns 8 percent interest, you will double your money in less than 10 years. In this example, a penny saved is two pennies earned.

Finally, make a commitment to pay down debt. Reducing your debt allows you the freedom to make smart future financial choices. To learn more about how to get involved and support the ongoing initiative to promote the importance of saving, visit .