Figuring out why many people don’t save

October 27, 2022

We spend ample time in this space talking up ways to save for retirement, but most studies suggest that the majority of us aren’t savers.

Save with SPP had a look around the Interweb to see why this seems to be the case.

At the Retire Happy blog, Jim Yih outlines several of the reasons that prevent people from being savers.

Citing research from Scotiabank that found that one third of Canadians “do not have a savings plan,” Yih says a lack of financial literacy is one reason behind non-saving. “For anyone that knows me, you know that I am very vocal about the importance and need for more financial education and literacy,” he writes. “The statistics are alarming when it comes to debt, savings and fiscal responsibility. One of the reasons for this is the lack of formal financial education.”

Other non-saving factors he lists in his blog post are having a “consumption attitude,” where people (and governments) tend to spend more money than they have; a “staggering” level of personal debt to pay for, and the complexity of financial markets for novice investors.

“Think about it. With over 9000 mutual funds, how can you possibly go through that many funds?” he asks.

The federal government’s consumer financial website lists several other factors. We tend to develop habits around spending, the article notes, such as always going out for lunch. We put off “things until later, especially things we don’t want to do anyway,” like starting a savings plan, the article continues. Many of us, the article adds, live in the now with money.

“We often downplay what we want in the future. We don’t think much about the future unless we have to. `I know I should keep my savings for when I retire, but I really need to remodel the kitchen this year,’” the article notes.

Among the other ideas in this article that of feeling that savings is like “doing without,” and the notion that putting money away for the future will somehow interfere with your ability to have fun in the present, the article adds.

The Insider by Finology blog throws in a few more. The lack of a budget, the blog suggests, is a key factor.

“Without a proper budget, it will be challenging to know where the money goes month after month, making it difficult to save money,” the authors note.

On overspending, the blog points out that those who don’t save will have serious problems if they ever face a job loss or an unexpected drop in income. Savings should be automated, a “set it and forget it” approach, the article continues.

“Some people need to be tricked into saving money because they don’t have the willpower to save without a push. If you’re one of them, then you need to automate your savings. By setting up automatic savings, you can ensure you meet your savings goals first and force yourself to live on what’s left,” the article advises.

The takeaway here seems to be that savings has to be a habit, one that you keep at systematically. Like eating healthier, or boosting your exercise, saving is not something that is necessarily fun – the benefits of it will appear down the road when you’ve been doing it for a while.

Start with a small, affordable amount of savings that you can live without in the present, and make that money automatically go from your chequing account to some sort of savings. Ramp it up a little bit as you earn more. A “pay yourself first” approach will benefit your future you enormously.

A destination for those hard-saved dollars could be the Saskatchewan Pension Plan. For more than 35 years SPP has been helping people build retirement savings. Check out SPP today and see how they can help you build a secure retirement!

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Written by Martin Biefer

Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. A veteran reporter, editor and pension communicator, he’s now a freelancer. Interests include golf, line dancing and classic rock, and playing guitar. Got a story idea? Let Martin know via LinkedIn.

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