THINK OF IT AS the ultimate financial Rorschach inkblot test. When you hear about the pitifully inadequate retirement savings of so many Americans, what’s your immediate reaction?
a) This is the inevitable result of stagnant wages coupled with soaring medical, education and other costs; or
b) This is what happens in a financially illiterate society with scant self-discipline and constant temptations to spend.
For me, these differing views were brought into sharp relief by two recent articles on HumbleDollar.
I’VE READ A LOT of articles about why Americans aren’t saving enough for retirement. Most of the articles lay the blame on our spending habits and the debts we’re servicing.
For instance, some point the finger at the gourmet coffee we buy each morning. Suze Orman says, “You need to think about it as: You are peeing $1 million down the drain as you are drinking that coffee.”
Similarly, others point out we’re spending too much on unnecessary items like vacations,
FOR AS LONG AS I CAN recall, I’ve received unsolicited advice on what I should study in school, when I should get married, when I should pop out kid No. 1—and how I should spend my money. Regarding this last item, it seems there’s a lot of financial advice out there from people who enjoy a level of financial security I’ll likely never experience, unless I strike it lucky with the Powerball.
Many advice columnists just haven’t caught up with the soaring cost of living and student debt crisis that confront young people.
THE SAVINGS RATE has been revised by the federal government—and the new numbers offer a rosier take on America’s financial rectitude. But is the story believable?
Make no mistake: The old figures told a sorry tale. They suggested our savings habits fell apart after 1984 and with a vengeance after 1997. But suddenly, post-1984 doesn’t look so grim. Under the new methodology, the annual savings rate averaged 11.3% over the 35 years through 1984,
IF WE WON’T SAVE for the future, should somebody do it for us? Everyone knows Americans don’t save; last year, we managed a miserable 3.4% of personal disposable income. That’s not going to cut it for either financial emergencies or retirement.
We can’t even get many workers to save sufficiently to obtain an employer match in their 401(k) plan. That’s free money left on the table. According to separate calculations by Alight Solutions and Fidelity Investments,
WE DON’T PROMISE thinner thighs and harder abs here at HumbleDollar. But—unbeknownst to us—we could be the secret to your relationship success.
This revelation comes from an academic paper, “A Penny Saved Is a Partner Earned: The Romantic Appeal of Savers,” by Prof. Jenny G. Olson and Prof. Scott I. Rick, which is based on Olson’s dissertation research.
Conventional wisdom—and earlier academic work—suggest that, if men flaunt their wealth, they’re likely to have greater dating success.
STARTING TO SAVE is a discouraging business. Even if you invest in stocks—and even if stocks post gains—progress initially can seem agonizingly slow.
Consider a simple example. Let’s say you earn $100,000 a year. Not exactly an everyday salary, I admit, but it makes the numbers easier to grasp. You save 12% of your income, equal to $12,000 each year. That money is invested at the start of the year and earns 6% annually,
WHEN MY SISTER graduated from physicians’ assistant school earlier this year, I gave her a journal, the pretty, unmarked, paper-substantive kind that every female loves. Inside, I wrote five things that I wish I’d known, or am glad I knew, when I got my bachelor’s in 2006. Here was the first:
I’m gonna call it self-tithing. Ya know: Basically, what Mom and Dad taught us to give to the church, I’m telling you to give to yourself.
IF YOU DON’T SAVE diligently, you are highly unlikely to amass a decent-size nest egg. Time to make amends? Here are 10 questions to ponder:
Do you regularly spend more than planned? Try writing down every purchase you make. That’ll tell you where your dollars are going—and make you think twice before spending.
How much of your income goes toward fixed living costs? We’re talking about items such as mortgage or rent, car payments,
SAVING DILIGENTLY sounds like such a rudimentary skill that it gets scant respect. Who couldn’t spend 10% or 15% less than they earn, so they set aside a little money for the future? And yet the U.S. savings rate remains miserably low and many folks are pitifully ill-prepared for retirement.
The reality: Saving money may be simple but, clearly, it isn’t easy. What does it take? Here are six key ingredients.
1. There’s the obvious: We need an income.
MANY EMPLOYEES deliberately have too much income tax withheld from their paycheck, so they receive a fat refund each spring. Federal refunds averaged $2,850 per income-tax return in 2014, the latest year for which data is available.
This is completely irrational and entirely sensible.
It’s irrational, because we’re making an interest-free loan to Uncle Sam. Why not have the correct amount of tax withheld, and then take a sliver of each paycheck and pop it in a high-yield savings account,