America Saves

Spending Doesn’t Make Us as Happy as We Think

What does it take for us to be happy? At least $51,000 a year, to start. But happiness doesn’t just stop at income.

In fact, most Americans prefer saving their money over spending it, according to a new TD Ameritrade survey. Sixty-eight percent of baby boomers and 62 percent of millennials claim to be savers rather than spenders, and the vast majority of savers say spending doesn’t make them happy.

“Our research shows that it isn’t so much having more money as it is saving money that can make people feel more financially secure and happy,” says Dara Luber, a retirement and long-term investing professional at TD Ameritrade. “The more money you have saved, the freer you are to take control of your own destiny and make choices to improve your quality of life.”

Savers are focused on retirement

According to the survey, most millennials are saving for many different things, like a down payment on a home, a wedding, and an emergency fund. But the biggest stash goes to retirement: 72 percent have already started saving for it.

Most baby boomers, even though they are already near retirement age, continue to focus on saving for retirement (80 percent). But boomers are saving double for retirement: $300 per month compared to $150 for millennials.

“There is happiness in saving and financial security, though it may be harder to achieve for millennials who are paying off student loans and dealing with more debt than Boomers,” the report says. (Another way of looking at it: Boomers have to make up for lost time.)

But even though retirement has some of the biggest savings, nearly a quarter of each of millennials and boomers don’t believe they will ever fully retire and will most likely continue to work in some form in retirement age.

Spenders vs. savers

While more millennials are savers than spenders, more spenders are millennials. And it comes with a price. Savers have higher average incomes, and are more likely to own homes, work full-time and be married than their spender friends.

But spenders of any generation have no problem admitting why they don’t save money. The survey says 52 percent of boomers and 64 percent of millennials want to “enjoy life now.” Twenty-seven percent of each say they expect to work when they are retired so it doesn’t matter whether they save or spend now. (Yikes.)

And both groups — spenders and savers — are more likely to marry someone with the same financial outlook as them, which can be troublesome for spenders. Forty-three percent of millennials say “both [of us] being spenders means we sometimes find it hard to plan for the future.” Savers, on the other hand, argue about money half as often as their spender friends.

Across both groups, nearly 40 percent of millennial respondents admit that they are currently paying off a student loan, which means they can budget well for paying debt while also saving money.

What are we saving for?

While retirement is the number one savings goal, non-retirement goals, like emergency funds and vacations, are high on the list.

Nearly half of boomers and millennials are putting money toward a future emergency, like home repairs and unexpected bills. But not far behind that goal, 45 percent of each generation is saving for a vacation. The majority of both admit that saving money makes them happy and like the security that comes with it.

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