What’s getting in the way of your saving efforts?May 18, 2023
We should eat healthy. We should exercise. And we should save for the future.
Our parents drilled these ideas into our heads, yet — apart from a massive burst of saving when pandemic restrictions prevented us from spending — we are no longer, as Canadians, a nation of savers.
The highly-regarded Retire Happy blog, authored by Jim Yih, offers up some thoughts on the subject.
First, he posits, “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.”
Next, writes Yih, is the problem of a culture of overspending.
“We live in a society that loves to spend. It starts with a government that believes spending drives the economy and for the past few decades, governments have encouraged spending even if it means spending money we do not have,” he explains. “We live in a world of delayed consequence over delayed gratification and unfortunately we are facing those consequences today.”
A third reason is that our levels of debt make saving next to impossible, Yih states.
We owe, he notes, more than $1.5 trillion in household debt, and the ratio of debt to disposable income was 155 per cent at the time he wrote his blog post (higher now). How, he asks, “can you save money when Canadians have this much debt?”
OK — we don’t know how to be responsible with money, we love to spend, and we clearly love to max out credit cards, lines of credit, and other sources of spendable debt. What else is holding us back from saving?
The Kinda Frugal blog explores a few other factors.
Citing figures from Bankrate, the blog reports that “56 per cent of American adults don’t have enough savings to cover a $1,000 expense.”
The blog contends that not having a budget is a key reason for a lack of saving. Without a budget, people end up “living beyond your means” and “deep in debt,” and can be “wiped out by an unexpected expense.”
Instead, the blog suggests, we should try to live “below our means,” and spend less than we earn.
“Creating a budget is an excellent first step toward curbing overspending. Sticking to it is the part that will free up extra cash to put toward your savings,” the blog advises.
Another concept the blog explores is the ideas of separating your needs from your wants. “A need is something you can’t live without,” the blog explains. “Food, shelter, clothing, and medicines are necessities and examples of needs.” Wants, on the other hand, aren’t needed for living — examples include “expensive jewellery, high-end cars and luxury vacations.”
Writing for The Balance, Matt Reiner suggests a few other contributing factors in the “not-saving” file.
As mentioned by other bloggers, not having any savings when an emergency arises — like a major auto repair bill — can wipe you out. Reiner notes that it is important to have an emergency fund in place equal to about three to six months’ worth of income.
“If that sounds intimidating, start with socking away enough for one month. From there, you can continue building your emergency savings with regular monthly contributions,” Reiner suggests.
Reiner also advises those of us with retirement savings arrangements at work to take full advantage of them. Here in Canada, this would mean joining any company pension plan or retirement savings arrangement and taking part to the maximum. A lot of times, he writes, employers match all or some of the amount contributed. “A company match is essentially free money, and it’s best not to leave it on the table, especially if you’re behind on retirement saving,” Reiner explains.
He concludes with one piece of advice. “Regardless of where you decide to start, the important thing is to start. Even putting a little in savings out of each paycheque can add up over the long term,” writes Reiner.
Our late Uncle Joe religiously endorsed the so-called 10 per cent rule. When you get paid, put 10 per cent of the total away, and live on the rest. “You’ll never run into troubles if you can do this,” he told us.
Another idea that really works is to automate your savings, even if you are starting small. Choose an amount you’d like to save, and have it diverted automatically from your bank account to savings. It’s a “set it and forget it” approach, and you’ll be surprised how well it works.
It’s an approach that works well with the Saskatchewan Pension Plan (SPP). SPP members can make pre-authorized contributions to their accounts. You can pick dates that align with your payday, and boom — you are building your future retirement income without even noticing. Check out SPP today!
And there’s some great news for SPP members — the rules on making contributions have changed, and for the better. You can now make an annual contribution to SPP that is equal to your available registered retirement savings plan (RRSP) room! And if you are transferring money into SPP from an RRSP, there is no longer an annual limit on how much you can transfer in! It’s a change that makes contributing to SPP limitless!
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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.