21 in 2021 Challenge: Save 21% of your income in 2021

2021 is finally here. We can only hope it is better than 2020, right?

We are growing the 20 in 2020 challenge for 2021…slightly… by 5%

It’s simple but not easy: save 21% of your income in 2021.

If saving 21% of your income is easy for you (or if your income is over 100K) - please use the alternative 21 in 2021 Challenge: Save $21,000. Both get the same sticker, but the threads will have people at similar income/challenge levels.

Here’s all the 21 in 2021 Challenges:

Basic rules:

  • The goal is to save 21% of your pre-tax income in 2021. If you make $40,000 per year, that’s $8,400 or $700 per month.
  • You can combine any type of savings: emergency fund, 401K, Super, IRA, taxable investments, buffer, house down payment fund, student loan payments - to reach your goal.
  • You can choose household or individual salary, whichever you prefer.

What Counts

  • Debt repayment counts towards your savings rate!
  • Mortgage principal (but not interest or escrow) counts.
  • Only savings that occurs between 1/1/2021 and 12/31/2021 count.
  • You can use tax refund or any other windfall money towards your savings percentage, but you then must count that windfall towards your overall income.
  • You can choose to count your income and savings jointly with a partner or separately - up to you!

What do you get:

  • Support on this thread as you go along - post monthly or quarterly check-ins as appropriate
  • A forum badge when you are halfway - at your 11.5% goal - for the year
  • A forum badge when you complete your 21% goal for the year
  • A sticker mailed to you for the 21% goal for the year
  • A shoutout on the podcast for reaching your goal

Please Tag @moderators when you hit any goals so we can get you your badge!


I’m in! Mine will be a combo of student loan repayment, repaying a loan to my parents, and emergency fund building, with a teensy bit of credit card debt payoff (that should be taken care of by end of January, woooooot).


21% of zero is still zero, right? :sweat_smile:

I’ll likely do some odd jobs, I can set aside 21%.


I will try! It will come from mortgage payments, student loan payments, pension contributions, IRA contributions and emergency savings.


I am here this year, currently on mat leave and will be returning part time in June so will count super, mortgage principal and any after tax savings I can scrape together.


I’m in! Will be a combo of personal loan repayment and saving in various buckets!


That’s my approach!! I couldn’t do this in a year I expected to earn money, but I’m going to try now. It looks like about $2.10 a week!


I’m in for this year! I will make somewhere between $20,000 - $40,000 USD this year (yup no idea). My goal is 50% savings rate while I am working full time, which very well may pan out to 21% for the whole year since I might be going to $0 income in august. We’ll find out!

This is a combo of cash savings, IRA and workplace simple IRA.


I’m in again! :slight_smile: I’ll have to do some calculations later, but my 401K is set to 15%, so I just need to make up the rest in cash/e-fund/IRA.


I am in again this year. I have way less debt to pay off this year, so I’m going to have to make a much more concerted effort to save to meet the goal.


I’m in again! It’s just going to be my IRA and long term savings since the house got paid off this year. I would love to be in the save $21,000 group, but with working on commission I never have any idea what my income will be. It probably varies between 38-55k, so a pretty big variance and nothing I can know until the end of the year. I would rather just be surprised and excited if I can hit that one.


I’m in too! In 2020, I saved 35%. In 2021, it will be a stretch to get to 21%.

For income, I’ll have salary and retirement match (for now), plus any windfalls. For savings, reserve savings and retirement savings–403b and maaaaaaybe IRA as a place to put windfalls.

I also have a savings account for Larva, but I’m not sure whether I should count contributions as a savings item or just an expense item. In my spreadsheet, I’m excluding it from net worth calculations, so it seems consistent to do the same here.

I like Excel, so I have 2021’s baseline income and savings mapped out and I won’t get to 21% with those numbers–I’ll be about $2,000 short. Which means I’ll need about that much in money from the sky. So fingers crossed for good tax refunds (or possibly more COVID money, but I won’t hold me breath on that).


I am in for this again. Like last year I will probably diligently track and then fall off somewhere around August…I am looking to save about 30-35%, which is what I did in 2020. Hoping I can keep better track so I don’t have to do a pile of calculations at the end of the year!


I’m in! I’m continuing my Race to the Max spreadsheet for 2021, which will be closer to 50% if everything goes to plan.

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I just became eligible for my Workplace 401K, as my 1 year anniversary at the company is tomorrow.

First time in my life I’ve had an employer contribution (only 2nd time I’ve even had an employer sponsored account) - it’s 3% of my salary (not a match) which works out to $129.51 per month.

I am also putting in 10% which is $431.67 per month, for a total of $561.18 per month.

I’d go higher with the contribution but I am hoping to also max out my Traditional IRA for $6000 AND I am prioritizing saving cash right now in case I go to grad school in September. If I don’t, I’ll yank up up the contribution a bit.


Uh, guess who did her taxes and is expecting $2,000 from the sky next month? That’s not counting Larva’s stimulus, which I’m excluding from income and savings as her money and not mine.

I’ve had too much soda (otherwise am no-caffeine, so this has more of an effect than usual) and I’ve finished my class prep for tomorrow. Nothing should change between now and the 31st short of some vehicular or veterinary emergency. (This is not an invitation to manifest either of those things as above, universe.)


Salary: $4,515
Match: $113
Other: $600 (COVID money II: Electric Boogaloo)
Total Income: $5,228

Reserve: $500
403b: $339
Total Savings: $839

January Savings: 16%
2021 Savings: 16%
2021 Total: $839


People who have possibly thought this through better than I have—does it make sense to count a tax refund as income? Technically that money is already counted in salary, and then part of it went to the federal or state government and then part of that came back. So am I double counting and throwing off my numbers?

The refund is only a return of the money withheld, not extra from outside withholding, and I could have chosen to have nothing withheld and pay in (okay with a penalty) and there would be no refund.

So should I not count tax refunds as income? Should I put post tax salary as income and count refunds? Should I just leave it and play the game on max difficulty? Is there something about this I’m just totally missing?

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Are you counting your income as pre all deductions? or are you counting it as what comes in your paycheck? I count my income as pre-everything, so I don’t count my tax return as income (it’s more like a refund).

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Gross pay before deductions. I could put net pay, but there are other things that come out alongside federal and state withholding that make that a messy number too.

I started thinking about this because I have a dependent care FSA and I don’t want to count reimbursements as income for the same reason—it’s already in gross pay and got temporarily shunted over to get FSA.

I think I’ll do the same for tax refunds—it’s a little different with the money from one year refunded in the next, but over time it’s more even. If I ever end up with $0 tax liability and got back more than I put in, I’ll count that as income too.

Then what about the stimuli money past, present, and future—it’s technically an advance on a credit, but also a really weird situation. Some people had to wait to file to receive them, so it would be more like a refund, but I got them in the tax time interregnum. The March one is done and dusted in 2020, but the January one could be thought of as part of my refund, I suppose.

It totally sounds like I’m trying to game the challenge, but I really just want to make sense of my money. I made my very first budget because I couldn’t figure out what I was spending in a month, and my bank statement wasn’t helping because it was double counting transactions on my credit card and the credit card payment itself. I need money things to be tidy!


Maybe I’m overthinking this. I could put net pay as salary and then have my retirement contribution, FSA reimbursements (daycare and medical), and tax refunds also in income. The advantage of that is seeing why there are changes on the savings side (or not) that have a corresponding change on the income side.

The other deductions are for Social Security and the like, health insurance premiums, and some rando things like life/disability insurance through work.

Fix my money categories, OMD!