The question for today is: are you a spender or a saver? For me, I’m both. I spend and I save. So much so that I think the two actions cancel each other out. That’s not a good thing. I’ve been known to always tuck something away for the future BUT I’ve also been known to spend a bit also in the present. Neither one of these things are going to save my retirement.
I had my first opportunity to correct my bad spending habit when I was 18 years old. Unfortunately, it was a big fail. It was when I got my first job out of high school working for an elite company on New York City’s tony Fifth Avenue when accidentally one day I walked into Bloomingdale’s. I was greeted by a woman who was doling out credit card applications. I filled one out and got myself my first credit card. I remember distinctly what it was like using that store credit card for the very first time. I bought a skirt. I handed the cashier my credit card. She rang up the sale, put the card through, it was accepted, she put my skirt neatly into a bag and handed it to me, along with the receipt.
That’s it? I mumbled to myself. I didn’t have to hand over any cash? How easy was that? The next thing I did was continue going through the high end, retail department store buying myself more and more clothes (what teenager doesn’t like clothes?) I didn’t think much of what I did. I just wore the clothes and enjoyed them. Till the credit card bill came. My mother, thinking the bill was hers, opened up the bill only to discover that I had spent $806 on clothes at Bloomingdale’s! Needless to say, all hell broke loose. My mother was furious.
First off, I was earning $2.00 an hour (that was minimum wage back in the late 60’s). There was no way in hell I could ever come up with $806 to pay my bill in full, by the end of the billing cycle. Now here’s where the fatal financial mistake of my life was made. Instead of making me face my consequences, my mother called up Customer Service at Bloomingdale’s, screamed at them for the audacity of giving an 18 year old girl a credit card and then my mother promptly paid my bill, in full, and we never discussed it ever again.
This action, on my mother’s part, set me up for a lifetime of credit card failure. I notoriously, throughout the rest of my life, still to this day, have the audacity to rack up consumer debt and praise the good Lord above, someone or something always happens to save me from any financial ruin. In other words, I never learned my lesson. Thankfully, I have the good sense NOT to tempt the hand of fate and I’ve been good with credit card debt for the past fifteen years or so. But it’s a constant struggle with me as I never quite developed self-discipline or self-control.
I have great difficulty saying no to myself. And yet, I do it. I keep a hand-written list of my daily spending, in any category. I know my limits and when I near it, I have the good sense, to say no more. But it’s not easy. And I can trace it all back to that fateful Bloomingdale’s credit card. It’s easier as a teen to reign your spending in, than a middle-aged woman, for sure!
According to this article from Money Magazine (click here) your retirement is gauged by whether you are a saver or a spender.
Ted Benna, the creator of the 401(k), said on Tuesday at The Wall Street Journal’s Future of Everything Festival in New York, The Wall Street Journal reported. “The key is learning early in life what you’re going to be. (Successful saving habits start early in life) There’s people who make tons of money who don’t become successful at saving, and then there are others, surprisingly, who shock the heck out of me—they don’t make big bucks but they have substantial savings,”
Benna’s right. Plenty of people manage to save very little, despite a healthy paycheck. The average household aged 40 to 55 earning between $75,000 and $100,000 has just $70,000 in overall assets, which includes retirement funds (but excludes the house and car), according to an analysis by Quartz of Federal Reserve Data. That’s not even one year’s salary, and will only fund a couple years of retirement, max.
What does Ted Benna recommend people do in order to solve this problem? The good news is that spenders can learn to be savers. It’s best to start early, since it gets harder to change entrenched behaviors as time goes by. Track your discretionary spending for a week. “That gets you to thinking: Maybe I could set these dollars aside instead of spending them.”
I know my mother meant well. She probably thought she was helping me. But she wasn’t. It’s been a long and arduous journey. I’m just thankful that my spending is under control and my savings increase and prospers. And I had the good sense to say ‘no‘ to myself!
I turned out to be my best teacher of all.