If you're saving 10 percent of your income for the future or investing for retirement, congratulations. Even if you never become rich in your lifetime, you'll likely be in a better financial situation than most Americans when you retire. Unfortunately, the rising cost of living and unplanned events will conspire to keep your wealth down as you try to make it grow. It's no wonder people are tempted to go into debt when the other option is to work harder, earn more money, and reduce expenses.
Even if your wealth eventually increases through compounded saving, by the time you achieve a net worth that matches the goal you've set for retirement you may be too old to fully enjoy all that you have set aside. Other than the selfless act of passing your assets onto charitable causes and descendants, the point of accumulating money is not to have a bank account with a large balance; the purpose of saving is to do something with the money and to have the freedom not to worry about earning income through trading your time and effort.
When you save, you put aside your desire to do something now for the chance of doing something more later. Financial advisers and people with a super-frugal mindset will always suggest the latter to the point of an unbalanced life. The problem with the future is it never arrives —regardless of how long you wait. Even though there is always a place, time, or dollar amount where you can draw the line and begin living your life to the fullest, that time may never come.
If you are focusing solely on saving for retirement, you are betting that you will have years of good health with which you can enjoy the fruits of your labor. You are sacrificing a part of your life —not only the activities in which you'd like to participate for fun, but the charitable things you could be doing with that money now. While it's generally a solid assumption that you will be around later to live your life in the future, there is a chance you won't. Too many lives are cut short. Without a future opportunity to use your money, you will have made needless sacrifices.
When there are no certainties, how can anyone truly offer targeted 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 experts guess and offer suggestions based on averages. Save 10 percent of your income or save as much as possible, but don't completely sacrifice your life now for your future.
With your finances under control or on the path to being under 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 the joys of experiencing life now. If your approach to future retirement 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 for retirement.
Find the right balance that works for you.
Luke Landes writes for Consumerism Commentary, where he encourages discussions about money and consumer issues. Consumerism Commentary regularly tracks and reviews the best online savings accounts and other financial products.