“Worry, like a rocking chair, will give you something to do, but it won’t get you anywhere.” – Vince Havner
A couple of weeks ago, I had a call from a lady who wanted to know if she could withdraw money from her company pension plan. As a current employee who didn’t meet any of the criteria for early access to her pension funds, I had to tell her that her money wasn’t available to her. Understandably, she was frustrated but it got me thinking again about how challenging life can be when a curveball hits and you don’t have enough savings or access to any credit.
Related article: Unlocking pension funds
We know why it makes sense to save but the fact remains that most Canadians aren’t saving enough towards retirement or for contingencies. Survey after survey confirms that we’re carrying too much debt and have no real idea (and often no inclination) how to get rid of it. Often, the rewards of saving that are sold to us are the long term rewards of the savings habit: the freedom from debt and the ample retirement accounts, rather than the short term, more immediate effects that a regular savings habit can induce.
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In our modern society, we’re often sold the quick-fix solutions and, given the choice, most of us would rather take the path to instant gratification rather than the slow and steady route to success. While there’s no real “quick fix” when it comes to demolishing debt or building financial security (although a lottery win or a windfall inheritance is always a remote possibility) there are several ways that saving can quickly improve the quality of your life that might act as an incentive to get started or to ramp up your savings strategy.
Consider these five reasons to save:
A national survey commissioned in 2014 by the Financial Planning Standards Council (FPSC) found that 42% of Canadians rank money as their greatest source of stress and 87% wished that they’d made better financial decisions. 42% of men surveyed and 51% of women reported losing sleep as a result of worrying about money and the study also found that, for those in relationships with shared finances, money was often a factor in arguments.
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Taking control of your money and implementing a regular savings habit goes a long way towards easing financial stress and enhancing overall wellness. Even though it can take several months to build a significant level of savings, just taking the step to put a plan into place can go a long way towards reducing your stress levels and helping you feel more positive about your financial future. Also, seeing your savings grow every paycheque helps you see tangible progress and acts as a motivator to inspire you to keep going.
Life is unpredictable and not having savings makes you vulnerable to the unexpected curveballs of life. Saving not only lets you assert control over your money, it also helps you feel more in control of your life in general. When we feel as though we’re in control of our present and our future, we tend to act more confidently and are less fearful. This not only makes us happier, it also makes it easier to deal with the “hiccups” in our day to day lives and allows us to look forward and to plan more confidently for the future.
This might be a little obvious but it’s important to note that the most significant “side effect” of saving is that you have more money and, as any wealthy person will tell you, having money means having more power to impact both your present and your future. As someone who spent many years in debt and without any significant savings, it’s hard to explain just how different my life is now that I’m almost debt free and have money saved. Sometimes people assume that you have to accumulate a lot of money in order to feel the effects of it but, for me, that definitely wasn’t the case. In fact, I think I might have been more excited about saving my first hundred dollars than I was about my first thousand just because it took away so much stress and made me feel as though I was actually moving forward.
Building discipline in one area of your life tends to make it easier to develop discipline in other areas of life. If you can master the savings habit then there’s a good chance that you’ll find it easier to make fitness a habit; or make meditation a habit; or anything else that you’ve been wanting or needing to implement in your life and haven’t quite managed to. Plus, with less financial stress and more sleep, you’re likely to have more energy and more motivation to tackle other things which will make it even easier!
If you’re not saving then there’s a good chance that you’re not paying particularly close attention to your money. If you don’t pay attention to your money, if you don’t give every dollar that flows in a purpose, then there’s a good chance that anything not earmarked for bills or regular expenses will drift out of your bank account and become “stuff”. A pair of shoes, dinner, a new gadget or just something that caught your eye as you walked through a store or waited in line for the cashier, there are a myriad of ways to spend “un-purposed” dollars. One of the nicest side effects of saving is that it makes you more conscious about your spending, which tends to reduce the amount you spontaneously spend on stuff you don’t really want, and leaves more in your pocket to consciously spend on nicer things that you do actually want.
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Just like many things in life, saving (and money in general) is a very personal thing. There are lots of reasons to save and lots of reasons not to and those reasons vary greatly from person to person. Whether you’re a great saver, a great avoider of saving or somewhere in between, it’s worth taking the time to consider whether there’s a benefit to be had from implementing a new saving habit. Like it or not, a life with savings is an awful lot easier and less stressful than a life without savings and those, for me, are the two best reasons I’ve found to put money away on a regular basis.