America has a retirement savings crisis. Just how bad is it? Here are some daunting figures from an LA Times article: "About 22% of people ages 45 to 59 said they have no retirement savings or pension, according to a recent Federal Reserve study." That's roughly a quarter of middle-aged people that need to get their act together. Furthermore, "about 61% of private-sector workers had access to a 401(k) plan last year, but only 43% participated."
Clearly, America is falling short in saving for retirement. There are various ideas on how to solve this crisis, and I'd like to offer a solution of my own.
Don’t save for retirement.
Retirement is boring. Retiring conjures up images of old people with walking canes and dentures playing Bingo in a retirement home. Who wants to save for that? If given the choice between a nice beach vacation now, and saving for retirement, how can you turn down the vacation?
It may not be the only thing holding people back, but one of the major reasons for the retirement savings crisis is the lack of inspiration.
I'm not a fan of the lottery and I personally don’t play myself, but I will give credit to the lottery for one thing.
Before I get to the one thing, let me acknowledge that right about now, you're probably thinking I've lost my mind. I've already told you not to save for retirement, now I'm talking about the lottery. "Where are you going with this NinjaPiggy?" Please allow me to finish.
Ok, back to the lottery. The lottery does a way better job or getting people (especially at lower income levels) to dream about their future. Even if you've never played the lottery, I think everyone at one point has daydreamed what it would be like to win a few (hundred) million.
$2,500,000 is a nice chunk of change. I'm pretty confident if I ever hit that amount, regardless of age, I'd be set for life. How did I arrive at $2,500,000? That's the number I would need to be able to take out $100,000/year (at a 4% withdraw rate). The truth is, I could probably get by on a lot less, but $2,500,000 is a fun target at a young age.
Now, I want you to stop for a few minutes (or hours) and dream what life would look like if you had $100,000/year for the rest of your life starting now? (If $100,000/year is too low for you, feel free to revise the number upward.)
Ask yourself these questions:
Would you quit your job?
Would you take on more meaningful work, if you knew you didn't have to rely on a paycheck?
Would you turn a hobby into a (fun and exciting) job?
Would you travel?
Where would you live?
Would you spend more time with family and friends?
Would you extend a vacation a couple days just because?
Would Sunday night be less stressful if you didn’t have to go to work Monday?
Let your mind go.
Take as long as you need to.
Then when you’re done, snap back to reality. You now have a goal to strive for. You no longer need to save for “retirement”, you can start saving for your dream. If your dream isn’t enough to inspire you to ramp up your savings, then keep dreaming until your dream lights a fire under you.
Don't get caught up in the numbers at this point. The numbers are important and NinjaPiggy's Retirement Calculator can help you figure out how much you'll need for your dream, but you can focus on that later. The key is getting your retirement savings started. I hope this post gives you a swift kick in the pants to get started saving for retirement if you haven't done so already. And for those of you who have started saving, I hope this gives you the inspiration to save more.
If you haven't started saving, start now, no matter how small it may be. You have the power to turn your dream into a reality by investing consistently and letting the market do its thing. Every day you delay saving for retirement, you are robbing your dream. The longer you wait to save, the more of your dream you'll have to sacrifice.
I've always been consistent with saving for retirement, but it wasn't until I started to dream that I started saving more aggressively. I turned an abstract concept into something real and worth working towards. It's far easier to forego current spending when you are working towards something you really want.
Money gives you freedom. If you want to work forever, you may have that option, but make it a choice, not a requirement (your future self will thank me). Give yourself the flexibility to do what you want when you no longer feel like working. Don't buy into the myth that you have to wait until age 65 to retire. Don't let others define your dream. Redefine what retirement means to you and don't settle. Make your dream a reality.