Regrets of the Retired: Didn’t Save Enough!

According to a survey done last year, “98% of retirees surveyed by Oppenheimer regret how they spent their money before retiring” according to this article, “Regrets of the retired — didn’t save enough!’.”

Of course, Oppenheimer is using these numbers to boost their own business (they are another company with baby boomers on the brain), but I think think the first statistic about regretful retirees it is something that everyone should consider, regardless of your current income. The lifestyle you enjoy when you are in your 50s and still working may take a drastic turn in your 60s when you decide to retire and have only your retirement savings, existing non-retirement assets, and social security to depend on.

In order to ensure that I do not have the same regrets when I retire, I have made retirement our #1 savings goal. Eventually we may get to the point where we have enough saved up such that we will have more than enough money at 65 without making any more contributions (and assuming a conservative return on investment). Until that day arrives though, saving for retirement is our #1 savings goal. My wife is not that happy about it. We could have more cash to spend on our “wants” every month if we contributed less towards retirement, but ever since I saw those typical examples of compound interest (and learned the compound interest formula in school) I have been hell-bent on the belief that people should start saving up for retirement as early as possible. This maximizes the compounding effect and takes cash out of your hands so you will not waste it. One of the comments on the blog post above had something to this effect:

I suspect that these retirees regretted spending money on things they didn’t need. At work I constantly hear my colleagues breathlessly talking about the flat screen TVs they have, plasma vs. LCD, etc. The big ones cost thousands, and even smaller models can cost between $600 and $900. I am pretty happy with the 25″ tube-based TV I bought last year — it cost $190 and does the job just fine!

We also have a 29″ tube-based (CRT) TV. We actually got it free as a hand-me-down. With so many people upgrading to the latest technology these are easy to find! I am no longer concerned about keeping up with the Joneses. An investment in retirement savings will grow. And investment in a new TV will depreciate. Either you invest a little bit in your retirement now (and let it grow) or invest a lot in your retirement later. I am pretty confident that by choosing retirement over TVs now means that others will be trying to keep up with US later.

4 thoughts on “Regrets of the Retired: Didn’t Save Enough!”

  1. Dave, this is pretty standard – everybody wishes they had done more earlier – because the things they enjoyed earlier are long gone. You also have to live your life today. Not much fun to die with a dull life and a million in the bank.

  2. True, but life actually doesn’t have to be dull even if you make saving up for retirement a maximum retirement. Paying yourself first is a great philosophy. You put the money away and don’t think about it. Then you make the most with what you have and usually you don’t miss the money you put away.

    Also I don’t think of it as JUST saving up for retirement when I am 65. I am saving up for my 30s, my 40s, and my 50s. During those years I expect to not have to put as much of my salary into retirement savings because I will already be on track to retire with enough money without having having to increase my contributions from what they are today.

    Finally, even if my life is a little bit duller today than it could be, I think it’s ok. I understand the benefits it will have later and I am willing to make some sacrifice now (at least on some things, like a new TV!)

  3. I’m trying to save as much as possible too. I regret not putting money into my retirement account at an earlier age. I should of started when I was 16, that’s 8 wasted years of compounding.

  4. I am going to tell my kids to start contributing to their RRSPs as soon as they have the room. They will not be able to benefit from deducting the amounts from ther income until they are older but I think investing that 18% of their income every year into their RRSPs is a great idea.

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