Picture yourself at 65:
(Whoops, I might have overdone the aging a bit.)
Are you taking road trips to visit friends and family, volunteering at your church’s VBS, and working P/T because you want to?
Or are you still working 40-60 hours a week because you have to?
The path to the former is clear: Spend less than you earn and invest your savings.
Easier said than done. Following are some tactics to help you be successful in these things.
Reduce Voluntary Spending
Not everyone can find a higher paying job. But everyone can reduce discretionary spending, without impinging on your joie de vivre. Here are some ideas from last time.
Another example: TV streaming plans. The average American spends $468 per year on streaming subscriptions and 47% of people pay for streaming services that go unused, says Forbes.
And these costs keep rising:
Ask yourself: Am I watching what I’m paying for every month? If not, cancel it. These services are easy to drop and resubscribe to later if desired. My wife Nora subscribed to Hulu to watch Men in Kilts (how else do you prepare for a trip to the UK?), then went into Settings to disable auto-renewal at the end of the month.
Follow up question to yourself: Can I live with ads? Ad-supported plans cost an average of a third less than ad-free plans while two – Paramount+ and Peacock – are half price. It’s not as bad as you think – Netflix’s ad-supported option has only 4 minutes of ads an hour, compared to 11.2 minutes/hour averaged across TV, according to WSJ. We watch Only Murders in the Building (also Hulu) with another couple on their ad-supported plan.
“Be Like LeBron” doesn’t have the same ring as “Be Like Mike,” but he’s on to something:
Motivate Yourself to Save
Saving for later is hard. Especially if it’s decades later.
According to behavioral scientist Hal Hershfield, “The brain patterns that emerge on an MRI when people think about their future selves most resemble the brain patterns that arise when they think about strangers…This can have major implications for our present actions. If you see future you as a different person, why should you save money, eat healthier or exercise more regularly to benefit that stranger?”
How to befriend that stranger? Try writing a letter to – and then from – your future self. According to a 2020 study in the journal Self and Identity, when high school students did this type of ‘send-and-reply’ exercise, they experienced elevated levels of feelings of similarity with their future selves.
Invest Spare Cash
OK, you’re motivated to save. What to do with the cash?
You probably know about tax-deferred retirement plans, like 401k, 403b, 457b, and IRAs. What about the emergency funds sitting under your mattress or sitting in a Bank of America account earning .01% (like mine was)?
The Fed has been raising rates and you can now earn over 4% in an online savings account. I recently opened a Capital One “360 Performance Savings” account that pays 4.15% APY.
If you have $20,000 in rainy day savings, .01% will earn you $2.00 per year compounding monthly, while 4.15% will earn $845.97.
Here are additional options.
Plan Beyond Retirement
You hear about how the actor Chadwick Boseman’s $3.8M fortune was settled following his cancer death in 2020? He didn’t have a will, so the estate went into probate, where the state determines who receives what.
After a two-year process, Boseman’s wife and parents each received $1.15M, and the rest ($1.5M) went to lawyers and the government. It could have been worse – California has favorable intestacy laws.
After you pass to the next life, do you want all your hard-earned cash to go to your family and friends and causes that are important to you? If so, consider creating a Will or Living Trust. Providers like LegalZoom offer inexpensive estate planning documents that include attorney assistance starting at $249.
Aim to Be Useful Even in Death
Nora texted me recently about a way she could advance medicine:
Her reaction to potentially being used for military target practice? “I’m okay with that too.”
Spoken like a woman who knows she’ll have already flown to worlds unknown, to see the Rock of Ages on the judgment throne.