Saving money is hard, but sometimes figuring out what to save for is even harder.

By Lauren Phillips
Updated October 01, 2019

Setting financial goals feels like the kind of task that would be assigned during a mandatory personal finance course or seminar. Financial goals don’t feel glamorous or exciting or even that interesting, but they can be the key to financial success, especially when they’re combined with some easy personal finance tips. They can help people prioritize saving money; without them, saving money can feel a little pointless, making it easier to spend instead of save. But what do financial goals look like?

Fortunately, despite all the characteristics and circumstances that make people different, financial goals tend to be pretty universal. Life has a handful of large expenses—barring major tragedies and illnesses—that most people end up paying at some point, which means the vast majority of people are likely saving for the same things. (How much they are saving is a whole other discussion.)

Financial goals - the most popular goals, according to a survey
Credit: Getty Images

Getty Images

New data from Google highlights the financial questions people are asking the most, including which financial goals they’re saving money for. According to the Google Search data, the top “How to save for” questions in the last year in the United States are:

  1. How to save for a house
  2. How to save for retirement
  3. How to save for a car
  4. How to save for college
  5. How to save for a wedding
  6. How to save for a down payment
  7. How to save for an apartment
  8. How to save for a vacation
  9. How to save for kid’s college
  10. How to save for retirement at 40
  11. How to save for retirement without a 401k
  12. How to save for a house down payment

Saving for a home—a.k.a. saving for a down payment on a house—tops the list and even appears two more times, demonstrating that a huge number of people are trying to buy a home. Saving for homeownership is smart, especially because every aspect of it, from home remodeling costs to the cost of selling a house, comes with a rather large price tag. Setting aside money for that initial down payment, and then some, is the best way to minimize the effects of those costs.

After saving for a house comes saving for retirement, another hot savings goal that can feel just as elusive as home ownership. Retirement-related questions also appear on the list three times, marking this financial goal as another biggie—and one people may think more and more about as they get older. Other top financial goals range from the serious (saving for a car and saving for college) to the frivolous but important (saving for vacation).

Tax season windfalls can help move anyone closer to their savings goals (assuming they use any tax refunds responsibly), but so does a consistent savings effort. Life happens, of course. A chunk of savings set aside for a big vacation or even a down payment on a house can be diverted to paying for a new car, should the old one die; college savings can get put toward urgent home repairs. But saving towards these financial goals means saving, period. Whatever people choose to save for, at least they’re tucking money away for later, even if those financial goals shift over time.

Hopefully a peek at the most common financial goals can help you answer the question for yourself: What exactly are you saving for?