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No, Your Daily Latte Is Not What's Holding Back Your Retirement Savings

By Motley Fool Staff – Nov 18, 2018 at 11:20PM

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Let’s run some numbers and debunk this myth.

It's simple enough to know you should be setting aside 10% to 15% of your income for retirement -- until your bills come in, at which point, good intentions often get put on the back burner. If this is happening to you or someone you know, it may be tempting to hunt for some budgetary scapegoats -- or, to spin it more positively, regular discretionary spending that you could cut, and reroute the money into savings. And for some reason, the popular habit of shelling out for mildly upscale cup of coffee every workday gets picked on more than most.

But as personal-finance writer Maurie Backman explains to Motley Fool Answers hosts Alison Southwick and Robert Brokamp in this segment of the podcast, we're putting way too much blame on our caffeine addictions.

A full transcript follows the video.

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This video was recorded on Nov. 13, 2018.

Alison Southwick: You've joined us today to share five retirement myths that you are on a crusade to debunk.

Maurie Backman: Yes, we're going to do some serious debunking today, folks.

Southwick: Let's get to it. The first one is that your daily lattes will kill your retirement.

Backman: Right. One of my favorite things is when I'm talking to people and they say, "Oh, I'm spending three bucks a day at Starbucks. I really shouldn't because if I put that money aside instead, I could retire on it." And my answer is no. No, sorry -- $15 a week, $60 a month. No. This is my take on retirement. If you're smart about saving for retirement, life's little luxuries will not get in your way from meeting your goals, so this is what I do personally. I've got a certain amount that I set aside for retirement. I aim for at least 20% of my earnings just because I know that with the way inflation is going I'm going to need some serious cash when I'm older, especially if I have health issues and all that.

So I basically put that aside from the start. And then, frankly, I don't worry about the little purchases because, hey, they're what get me through my day. My morning coffee -- you do not want to see me without my morning coffee.

Southwick: It's an investment in a happy family.

Backman: It's an investment in my ability to work and function as a human and that's the case for a lot of people, so I always say whether it's your coffee or the fact that you love buying lunch or ordering takeout -- those little things aren't going to stop you from retiring if you have an overarching goal of saving for retirement and you're actually committing to it.

So the easiest thing to do, if you work for a company that has a 401(k), is just allocate enough of your paycheck to automatically land in your 401(k) before you even touch it. Before you even see that money.

Southwick: Pay yourself first. Pay your future self first.

Backman: Exactly. Pay your old and gray self first, and then buy your coffee.

Robert Brokamp: Especially goals-based budgeting. As long as you figure out, "OK, this is what I need for college. For retirement. If I want to buy a house. If I set that all aside and get that out of my bank account, whatever is left over I can spend however I want."

Backman: Exactly. Obviously you have to keep in mind the bills that are going to come up. You've got your cable bill due at the end of the month. Don't overspend on coffee and then owe Cablevision. You're going to be in the red and you're going to have to pay interest on that silly bill. That's why I'm a big fan of automating your savings, because that way, like you said, you get it out of the way and then you don't have to worry about those little purchases.

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