When it comes to money and personal finance, there are so many behaviors that seriously grind my gears. For example, it bothers me when people in serious debt don’t try to help themselves – as in, they’re complaining about credit card debt one minute and shopping for shoes the next. And I hate it when someone invites me out to dinner then tries to split the bill in half, even when I only had a salad.
Bank fees annoy me, and ATM fees send me through the roof. Another of my pet peeves is when people buy expensive new cars (with huge car payments) but also want to complain that they’re broke. When it comes to giant car payments, I just can’t deal.
But, if there’s one thing that annoys me about money more than anything else, it’s when people undermine others who are saving diligently for the future. They might say things like:
“Why are you even saving for retirement? The economy will crash or the world will end before you get there.”
“What’s the point of saving for college? Your kid is six!”
“Why save for college anyway? Jobs will be different once your kid reaches college age.”
“Paying off your house is dumb! The world is probably going to end, and you’ll wish you had done something fun with that money instead.”
“Who cares about credit card debt? The government is going to collapse, and it will all disappear.”
Comments like these make my brain hurt, and not just because they’re critical of my own-money saving efforts; they hurt because they’re nothing more than excuses not to save.
Why It’s Important to Save, Even if You Think the World Might End
So, why does saving matter so much? What difference does it make?
If you’ve been paying attention to the Simple Dollar at all, you probably already know. Despite what the non-savers of my generation have to say, the future we’re saving for is coming – whether we like it or not.
We may not know exactly how our lives will pan out. We don’t know whether our kids will go to college or whether we’ll live long enough to retire. But, we do know one thing: that not saving money gives us a 100% chance of missing out on the future we want.
Is saving hard? You bet. It’s difficult to do the “right thing” when your friends think you’re nuts and advertisers devote their whole careers to getting you to part with your cash. It’s a lot easier to just pretend the world is going to end and buy whatever you want – especially if your friends are all doing the same.
The thing is, I’ve been around long enough to notice that those who succeed are often the ones who march to the beat of their own drum.
My parents are a good example of a couple who did everything right at a time when many of their peers were sprinting in the opposite direction. Thanks to their abhorrence of debt and their self-discipline when it came to saving money, they were able to retire early and live in relative comfort.
My parents paid off their home in 17 years instead of 30, and they still live there to this day. They saved for retirement, set aside money to help their kids with college, and avoided debt like the plague. They bought used cars and drove them until the wheels fell off. They reused everything they could, and my mom was quick to pick up clothing or other bargains at garage sales or discount stores.
Over their lifetimes, they have lived through several recessions that rocked our economy. They’ve endured housing booms and busts, multiple wars, and the invention of mobile phones, computers, and the internet.
While many of their fellow baby boomers were buying larger homes, ignoring their retirement savings, and snatching up every new gadget or appliance that hit the shelves, my parents were hunkering down and preserving their wealth.
I often wonder if the crazy anti-saving ideas that are so prevalent today ever crossed their minds. Just imagine if they hadn’t paid off their home and chose to constantly upgrade their digs instead. Or, imagine they assumed that college wouldn’t be around or that their kids would never earn a degree anyway. What would have happened if my parents believed they would die young and chose not to save?
How would our lives be different? Would their children be as successful and stable as they are? Would my parents still be working and paying off debt? Would they have the same quality of life they have today?
It’s pretty obvious that the answer to these questions is a big, fat “no.” If my parents hadn’t been so serious about their finances, they would probably still be working and paying off debt. And there’s no way they would enjoy the stress-free financial situation they’re currently in.
The Future You’re Saving For Is Coming
No matter what anyone says, the future you’re pretending won’t happen will get here soon enough. Sure, it might look different than we think, but the money you save today will always matter – one way or another.
Retirement may look different in the future, but that doesn’t mean you won’t need investments in the bank and cash to spend. Avoiding debt can absolutely mean missing out on fancy vacations and new cars, but it can also mean never having to worry about money once you grow old.
At the end of the day, saving money gives you something that all the doomsday predictions in the world never could – options. When you have money saved for the future, you can weather recessions, job losses, housing bubbles, crappy job markets, and all sorts of other pitfalls that ruin the finances of those who choose not to save.
When you don’t save, you’re stuck with the future you’re dealt. If you wind up working until you’re 80, or struggling with high-interest debt until you die, well, it will be far too late to change by the time you figure it out.
So, save your money and ignore the people who undermine your efforts. No matter what anyone says, the future you’re saving for is absolutely on its way. And once it gets here, you’ll be prepared.
Holly Johnson is an award-winning personal finance writer and the author of Zero Down Your Debt. Johnson shares her obsession with frugality, budgeting, and travel at ClubThrifty.com.
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Are you saving for the future no matter what anyone says? Why or why not?