For most humans, life is much shorter than we would like, and for many of us saving even ten percent of our income will never result in a state of wealth within our lifetime. There are too many forces working against this endeavor: a lack of sufficient opportunity, inflation, and unplanned events to name a few. In addition, most people, at least in the United States, save much less than ten percent. It’s no wonder spending other people’s money and going into debt is so alluring for many.
Even if wealth eventually arises through conscious, compounded saving, by the time we reach a level of net worth that qualifies us to fall into the category we have set as a goal for ourselves, we are too old to enjoy what we have set aside. Putting aside the noble, selfless acts of passing our assets to charitable causes and descendants, the point of accumulating money is not to have a large bank account; the purpose of saving is to do something with the money.
When we save, we are putting aside our desire to do something now for the chance of doing something more later. Those nurturing a superfrugal mindset argue you should always choose the latter. The problem with the future is it never arrives regardless of how long you wait. Even though there is always a place or time or dollar amount where you can draw the line and begin living your life, that line may never come.
I will freely admit that I am not particularly adept at focusing singularly on the future. I likely fall somewhere along the spectrum of forward-thinkers. While I am not overly concerned about the present and I do not need immediate satisfaction, I do have my doubts about the future. I am saving money for retirement, including putting money into accounts that can’t be touched without penalty until several decades pass, but there is a possibility I may not live long enough to reach that goal. I am sacrificing a part of my life — not only the selfish activities in which I’d like to participate but the good, charitable things I could be doing with that money now — for the chance of doing more later.
If I don’t have the opportunity to do more later later, I would have made many needless sacrifices.
There are no certainties, so how can anyone truly offer advice about how much someone should save for the future? Life is short, and it’s important to make the most of it while you have a chance. No one knows what tomorrow will bring, so we guess and we offer suggestions. Save ten percent of your income (a weak but popular rule of thumb), or save as much as possible, but don’t completely sacrifice your life now for your future.
With your finances in control or on the path to being in control, ensure you are making the most of the short time you have on this planet. The slow road to accumulating money is the road that most people will take, so enjoy the scenery. The future may never come, so don’t deny yourself all joys of experiencing life now, however you define these joys, in deference. If your approach is causing you to miss out on aspects of life that you find important and will later regret, you may be saving too much money.
Updated July 15, 2010 and originally published October 2, 2009. If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the RSS feed or receive daily emails. Follow @ConsumerismComm on Twitter and visit our Facebook page for more updates.