Why is saving so hard?

Pain is nothing but the darkness that leads to the dawn of gain
— Edmond Mbiaka

 

We all know that we should be saving for our future but a lot of us don’t. Why?

 

It doesn’t hurt us

We don’t tend to save as much as we need to because spending money doesn’t hurt us. At least not the current version of us. We can often spend more than we need to and not experience any feelings of pain or regret. By not making financial decisions for our future, we don’t feel any pain in the present. It doesn’t hurt our current selves in any way. In fact, some of us feel even better when we spend. If only for a short while.

Without experiencing pain, we are not inclined to change our ways unless we can change our mindset.

 

Overconfidence

Mindset change is hard when we are generally overconfident. We are overconfident in how much we can achieve in the short term. Whereas under confident in what we can achieve in the long term. We don’t realise the effect of small changes. Just saving $5 a day in an average growth fund can result in $231,500 in 40 years. This mindset is what leads many of us to not start seriously saving for retirement until later in life. We think that after 20 years of not saving much we can flick a switch and start saving aggressively in our 50’s.

Life is not always that black and white.

This change in mindset would require a decrease in our expenses that we have become accustomed to over the last 20 years or so. This is no easy feat to change such ingrained habits. We may also be at the age where we are providing for both our children’s tertiary education and our parents care. Also known as the sandwich generation.

The thinking that saving later will be easy is fraught with danger. We never know what life will throw in our direction. It is dangerous to be too overconfident in our future selves. Especially if we are not looking after them today.

 

Not our problem

Another common mind trick we play with ourselves to abstain ourselves from financial responsibility for our lives is to rely on other people to take care of us. We think our employer has our best interests at heart and will never fire us or make us redundant. We believe we are a good chance of winning lotto, receiving an inheritance, or superannuation.

 

I deserve it

This is a common excuse for spending money to make ourselves feel better about the decision and not experience that pain I was referring to. Yet another mind trick that we employ to fool ourselves we are doing the right thing. When we work hard we often ‘treat ourselves’ with a reward. In theory, there is nothing wrong with this. In fact, I encourage rewarding good behaviours. However, our rewards are sometimes not deserved, or are too big.

 

Lifestyle inflation

Most of us tend to earn more as we age. This should mean we are able to save more. But often we just increase our spending to match our new level of income. This is known as lifestyle inflation. We briefly enjoy the feeling of being able to buy more and better ‘stuff’, but eventually we acclimatise to our new life. It isn’t long before a new house or a new car soon becomes the new normal. It doesn’t feel special anymore. Until we get our next pay raise and can upgrade our lifestyle again. Once again getting a brief hit of happiness, only for those feelings to normalise after a short time.

Happiness should be the main goal for all of us. That is why lifestyle inflation is so easy to do. Happiness is the carrot being dangled on a stick. It may be far away, but oh so tempting to reach for. Then we upgrade our lifestyle to get closer to the carrot and we do. But as we get used to our new things, the carrot gets further away again. Until we can jump towards it again, only for the same pattern to emerge. It is a never-ending chase.

 

Yolo

A common argument I hear from people not saving for the future, is that they are here to enjoy the now. They don’t want to deprive themselves of fun now. Living in the moment. The assumption made here is that if someone is saving for the future they can’t enjoy the present. To be honest, I used to think this way too. But it couldn’t be further from the truth. 

We don’t have to spend a lot of money to enjoy the present. The most valuable traits in life are to feel wanted, to feel like we are contributing, and to have meaningful relationships. It is easy to have just as much fun with a group of friends having a dinner at someone’s house, than it is going out to an expensive restaurant.

You can very easily enjoy the present whilst still taking care of the future. In fact, buying a smaller house and owning less things has added to my present-day happiness. Less house cleaning and maintenance is needed on the smaller house which has freed me up to more important things.

 

Final Thoughts

The future is happening whether we like it or not. We will get old. We will be the same person, but just older. It will be harder to look after ourselves financially. I urge everyone to think of your future self. It is you. Not a different person.

Understand some of the lies and mind tricks our current self tells us. Current self has all the control and wants all the results. I am sure we can all come to a compromise where both our current and future self can be taken care of financially and socially. All we need to do is find that balance where our future self is taken care of whilst our current self is also satisfied.

 

 

The information contained on this site is the opinion of the individual author(s) based on their personal opinions, observation, research, and years of experience. The information offered by this website is general education only and is not meant to be taken as individualised financial advice, legal advice, tax advice, or any other kind of advice. You can read more of my disclaimer here

 

Do you feel like you have made big sacrifices to be able to save money? Or has it come relatively easily? Are there any other reasons saving can be so hard?