One company has made official what we’ve all suspected: Americans know they should save for retirement, but they don’t.
TIAA-CREF — a long acronym for the Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association and College Retirement Equities Fund — has found only 18 percent of us are contributing to an Individual Retirement Account. Another 14 percent have an IRA but aren’t actively contributing to it.
That’s sad but not surprising. This is both: 56 percent of Americans who aren’t currently contributing said they’d consider it, up from 47 percent in 2014.
“These results illustrate the conflict between what Americans say they may be willing to do and what they are actually doing,” TIAA-CREF’s study says.
Let’s take a closer look why more Americans aren’t saving now for what they’ll need later.
3 excuses for not saving for retirement
Saving for retirement doesn’t offer instant gratification. Studies about something called “hyperbolic discounting” have shown that many consumers, given the choice, would rather spend $50 now than saving up that $50 a week to retire with $50,000. The excuses we tell ourselves prevent us from saving for when we really need it…
Myth No. 1: “I don’t make enough money to save for retirement.”
You’ve just graduated from college and landed an entry-level job, where you make just enough to pay rent and bills. You can’t possibly be expected to save for retirement with your minuscule paycheck, right? Wrong. There are always ways to save — on groceries, renting an apartment, and don’t forget about the art of using coupons.
Check out this couple’s extremely frugal lifestyle that’s allowed them to retire at 33.
Myth No. 2: “Saving for retirement is too complicated.”
According to the TIAA-CREF survey, 43 percent of respondents were “unable to identify the correct description of an IRA” (that’s Individual Retirement Account, in case you read this far without knowing). Another 39 percent said they don’t know enough of IRAs to consider contributing to one. Yet a third of respondents also said that closing a home, renewing a driver’s license, and a dental cleaning took more time than opening a new IRA. It doesn’t.
If you still think saving for retirement is too hard, read how you can open your own retirement account for as little as $25 — today.
Myth No. 3: “I have too many other things to pay off/pay for.”
Ever heard the saying “Pay yourself first?” That’s what saving for retirement does. You’re saving up to pay yourself down the road when you aren’t working regularly, have to survive on reduced income or Social Security, and may need costly medications or have other health care obligations. And that’s assuming that you haven’t used your retirement savings to pay for your kids’ college.
3 easy ways to stop financial procrastination
1. Automate your finances. This one is perfect for lazy people because you only have to do it once, and it really doesn’t even require you to start a good habit. Once you set up direct deposit with your HR department,your paycheck can go into as many or as few accounts as you’d like. This is where you should split up your emergency funds into a savings account, retirement funds into your IRA, and the rest in your checking account.
2. Think of yourself as your own CFO. As 21st-century work environments change, individuals are becoming increasingly responsible for knowing how benefits work and for going after those benefits. That means you have to aggressively manage your money, including asking after raises, insurance policies, and 401(k) matches. If you don’t manage these things, no one’s going to come do it for you.
3. Educate yourself and begin saving early. If you’re young and smart enough to understand what compounding interest is, you’re leaps ahead of most other people. Compounding interest and letting your earnings grow without being taxed is the best thing you can do financially when you’re young, because there’s so much time for those savings to grow.