I recently learned about a viral blog post entitled, “If You Have Savings in Your 20s, You’re Doing Something Wrong,” written by millennial writer Lauren Martin. To Ms. Martin, I have only this to say: HORSE MANURE!!!
Ms. Martin says that the need to save money was ingrained in her by her parents (who I believe are wise people), but that she now disagrees with that philosophy. I am going to go step by step through Ms. Martin’s theories on saving in your 20s and explain why she is incorrect.
“Refusing to give yourself the luxury of enjoying your money negates the whole point of making it.” Not entirely incorrect. But Ms. Martin is saying to forego retirement savings in your 20s in favor of more fully experiencing life. And while experiencing life while you are young enough to enjoy it is absolutely important, doing it at the expense of building a retirement nest egg during the early years is just foolish. The earlier you start socking money away in a retirement fund, the more time it has to grow and multiply. Early savers are more likely to be able to retire younger, and less likely to have to work during retirement to be able to meet their expenses. At the very least, folks in their 20s should be investing enough money into their retirement as it takes to earn an employer match (for those who are not self-employed). Not earning that match is equivalent to throwing away free money. And if there is not enough money left over after that investment for an occasional night out, then Ms. Martin has likely made some bad decisions about how much she has chosen to spend on some basics, like housing, clothing, and food.
“When you’re saving for yourself, you’re refusing to bet on yourself.” Ms. Martin purports that saving while you’re young is tantamount to predicting that you won’t earn enough money to play “catch-up” later on, thus predicting your own future failure. But why would anyone want to have to play “catch-up” when they have the opportunity to be in a comfortable position from the beginning? Anyone who has ever watched their favorite sports team trying to come back from behind knows that this is the more stressful situation. Why choose the more stressful option?
“When you have something to bank on, you have nothing to reach for.” Ms. Martin seems to think that success comes from need, and that folks with a financial cushion have nothing to strive for. Having a financial cushion actually just makes that strive a bit easier. She could strive toward owning a home, having a family, or traveling the world. All things that are much easier to do if you are financially secure.
Ms. Martin asks, “What memorable experience does money in the bank give you?” None. But it also helps you avoid such memorable experiences as “that time I couldn’t pay my rent and got evicted,” “that time I had a medical emergency and took on $20,000 in debt,” or “that time I had to work until I was 75 years old because I didn’t start saving for retirement until my kids finished college.”
“When you die, you can’t take your money with you.” True. But most people look at their savings as a bell curve. You save for retirement and watch the savings balance grow throughout the working years. But then you retire and start living on those savings, and watch that same balance decline. No…you can’t take it with you. But it sure is nice to have it there if you’re planning to live PAST your 20s.
“When you deprive yourself, you don’t learn how to TREAT YO SELF.” And if you never deprive yourself, you will have no appreciation of what is actually a treat, and it will eventually take greater and greater treats to stimulate your sense of luxury.
“When you’re 40, you’re not going to look back on your 20s and be grateful for the few thousand you saved. You’re going to be full of regret.” Ms. Martin, as someone who knows what it is like to be 40 (and older), all I can say is that you are wrong. When I look at my retirement savings statements for the accounts from my early years…my 20s…I am VERY grateful for the little bit of money that I saved then…and I’m amazed by the size it has grown to.
I remember my 20s being lean years in my early career. And I’m grateful that my parents, like Ms. Martin’s, instilled in me the need to save money even at that time. I don’t feel like life has passed me by or that I have not treated myself. I feel wise. And I hope that Ms. Martin wises up before it is too late for her to realize just how wrong she has been.