Even Those of Us Who Think We’re Saving Enough for Retirement Aren’t Saving Enough

Photo credit: dubird, CC0 Public Domain.

Today, in The New York Times, a financial writer approaching retirement explains how he might adjust his retirement advice:

Three Things I Should Have Said About Retirement Planning

I had co-authored a couple of books on the subject — one when I was in my 30s and another in my 40s — but now that I am north of 60 and retirement is a far less abstract concept, I look back on what I wrote in a different light.

How would he change his advice? First, he’d acknowledge that working until 70 isn’t realistic for many people. Then, he’d acknowledge that being able to save money every year, or being able to save more money every year, isn’t realistic for many people.

Which, honestly, I love. The standard advice is that your savings will grow as your earnings do, because you wouldn’t be so foolish as to succumb to something like lifestyle creep, but there’s a difference between lifestyle creep and “life happens.” There are births and vacations and weddings and college costs and the rest of it. (Also, lifestyle creep happens. The author paid to upgrade his house’s air conditioning, for example, which is totally a lifestyle creep thing combined with a climate change thing.)

This brings us to the closing statement:

Based on what I know now, I have put an addendum on the retirement advice I give to people: “And no matter how much money you think you are going to need, save another 15 percent, just in case.”

Wait. What? You’ve just spent the past 1,000 words explaining why it’s hard to save enough for retirement and you’re asking all of us to do it anyway and save another 15 percent?

I don’t even know where to go from that.

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