3 Reasons to Save More Money

“Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple.” – Dr. Suess


Saving is by far the most important first step in any investment plan. Without a solid savings portfolio your investment decisions don’t really have much of an impact. Here are 3 additional benefits to saving more money.

1. Replace Less Current Income in Retirement
The general rule of thumb from financial advisors is that you will need enough money to replace roughly 70-80% of your pre-retirement income. And from that 70-80% the next rule of thumb is that a 4% withdrawal rate each year from your portfolio, adjusted for inflation, increases your probability of not running out of money.

Morningstar’s David Blanchett found that this rule of thumb varies considerably depending on your household saving rate. This from MarketWatch:

So, for instance, a household with income of $150,000 where pretax expenses equal 6% of income (the average amount contributed to a 401(k)) and where post-tax expenses equal 12% would need to replace just 65% of their pre-retirement income to maintain their standard of living in retirement. But a household that saved twice as much (pretax expenses equal 12% of income) would need only replace 55% of their pre-retirement income in retirement.

It seems fairly obvious that the higher amount of income you save now should lead to a lower proportion of income needed in retirement, but many people take these rules of thumb as being set in stone.

The average person doesn’t save 10, 15 or 20% of their income. If you do, either you won’t have to replace nearly as much of your income in retirement or you will be able to take higher distributions to spend more from your portfolio.

Either way, saving more now gives you more options with your money come retirement time.

2. Make up for Lower Investment Returns
There have been some rumblings in the past few years that future returns to investors could end up being lower than they have been in the past for a number of reasons (lower interest rates, slower economic growth, demographics, etc.)

Rob Arnott of Research Affiliates recently discussed this possibility:

People think that it’s a horrible thing to suggest lower returns. No, it’s not. If you’re expecting lower returns, you’re simply going to save more aggressively, spend more cautiously, work a couple years longer. Is that a disaster? Not compared with saving too little, spending too much, retiring too early, and running out of money halfway through your retirement.

Arnott is spot on here.

You have absolutely no control over the returns that the capital markets give you. You do control the amount of money you save to participate in those returns.

I have no idea what the future performance of the markets will be. We’ve had periods of underperformance in the past and there’s no reason that it can’t happen again. This is how market and economic cycles work.

But if you are relying on earning ever higher returns to achieve your goals you could be in trouble if they don’t pan out.

I still believe in the innovative growth engine of capitalism to churn out long term returns over time, but I don’t want to rely solely on those returns to build wealth. That’s why I save a large percentage of my income.

But what if investment returns are lower going forward? Save more and you don’t have to worry about it nearly as much. Investors were spoiled in the 1980s and 1990s with higher than average returns on both stocks and bonds so the savings rate slowly declined.

It’s time that trend reversed.

3. More Savings Makes You Happier
Another reason to save more is because it can actually lead to more happiness. Ally Bank released a study that broke down the percentage of people that reported to be extremely happy based on the amount the had saved.

They found that close to 30% of people with less than $20,000 in savings considered themselves extremely happy while almost 60% of those with more than $100,000 in savings said they were extremely happy.

And happiness improved as the amount of savings increased from the $0-20K range up to $20-100K in savings and even more above $100K level.

Ally also measured the happiness of people at different income levels. They found that happiness increased with more earnings up to $75-100K, but actually declined slightly for those making more than $150K.

The moral of the story is that the amount you have saved has a greater impact on your level of happiness than the amount of money you earn.

Sources:
How to calculate the true cost of retirement (MarketWatch)
New Ally Bank survey links money to happiness
Where should you put your money now? (Fortune)

I shared some more thoughts on my favorite topic lately on the current stock market bubble discussion at Dividend Ninja.  This time I looked at the psychological aspects behind bubbles, what causes them and some further historical data to put it all in perspective.  Check it out: Is the stock market in a bubble?

And here’s the best of what I’ve been reading in the past week:

  • Some thoughts on economic and market forecasting (Prag Cap)
  • How do you define a bubble and are we in one now? (Big Picture)
  • Simple systems are probably the best way to achieve success (Boing Boing)
  • Bubbles: no one has any idea what’s going on (Motley Fool)
  • A dozen investing lessons from Jason Zweig (25iq)
  • Nothing should be more important to investors (Clear Eyes Investing)
  • Top 10 movies and TV shows of 2013 (The Wrap)
  • Simplify your investing to avoid opportunities for failure (Abnormal Returns)
  • So you’re telling me there’s a chance. Wall St. forecasters missed by just a tad in 2013 (Above the Market)
  • Investment fads and themes by year: 1996-2013 (Reformed Broker)
  • What exactly were these developments, John?  Beats the sh*t out of me Bob (Turnkey Analyst)
  • 5 reasons why 2013 was the best year in human history (Think Progress)

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  • Nice post. I save roughly 22% of my income, but wish to save more. Unable to squeeze it further and thus I am a bit frustrated about the speed of the growth of my savings. Maybe it is right as Arnott says, right? But I wish to find a way how to boost my savings so I can be buying more shares.

    • Ben

      Yeah, I think once you get into the habit of saving a large % of your income is becomes addicting and you constantly search for ways to increase that amount. I’d say 22% is a great number.

      I also like to have some balance and spend freely with the money I have leftover to enjoy.

  • I started saving 30% of my income no matter where it came from. The money left over at the end of the month goes to investing only and not savings account. Kim and Robert Kiyosaki said they stated with 30% paying themselves first going to 10 % savings, 10% investing and 10 % to tithing.

    I am now doing this with paying myself 35 % first. I put most of my money into investing and need to make better investments than I currently have.

    • Ben

      35% is huge. Nice work. The investment side of things will work out eventually but you have the right idea. You give yourself plenty of options saving that much.

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