Now here's a novel problem: Some Americans are having trouble spending money.
That's right -- in our modern society, where so many people buy so many things they can't afford, rack up credit card debt, and sometimes end up losing their homes, there's a sector of folks who do the opposite. They live below their means. They save for retirement via 401(k) plans, IRAs, and regular brokerage accounts.
In a column in the Chicago Tribune, Humberto Cruz detailed this phenomenon: "The traits that make for good savers, such as preferring to delay gratification and plan for the future, conspire against them becoming spenders, even when they have the means."
He added, "Savers don't get much of a kick, if any, from spending. When they spend, they are wired to question whether the money would be better spent on something else -- or simply saved."
That makes sense. After all, if you've spent years or decades socking money away for tomorrow, and there's always (one hopes) a tomorrow, it can be hard to suddenly stop saving and spend.
The good news
Fortunately, this is a rather good problem to have because it can be treated. If you or a loved one is in this cohort, here are some things to consider:
- Remember why you began saving and investing in the first place. It was probably for your retirement and to meet certain goals. Well, if you're at or in retirement now, make yourself understand that this is what all that deferred gratification was for. You shouldn't delay everything forever -- it's time for the gratification part of the formula.
- If you did a good job of saving and investing by following a plan to reach the sum you determined you'd need in retirement, then you can afford to spend some money. In fact, your plan is likely designed around your spending on yourself. In our Rule Your Retirement newsletter service , Robert Brokamp suggests that to make your nest egg last, you should plan conservatively and withdraw about 4% of it per year in retirement (increasing the sum annually for inflation). So if you have a $1 million nest egg and you're starting your retirement now, go ahead and plan to withdraw and spend around $40,000 this year -- that's what the nest egg is there for.
- And by the way, if you're not yet in retirement, remind yourself that you, too, can reach it in good shape, with ample money to spend on yourself for the rest of your life. You just need to make a sound plan as soon as possible, and stick with it. (We can help, and we'd like to.) If you think you're far behind where you should be in saving and investing, know that just two years can make a big difference.
If the idea of spending your savings still makes you uneasy, diffuse those fears with information. Sit down and list all your sources of income in retirement, along with your expected expenses. Check how big your nest egg has grown. See just how much you really have, and you may feel better about spending some of it.
Retirement means changes
Despite the many habits and routines you've honed over the years, retirement can bring with it major changes. If you're suddenly not working, that means you're removed from a social network that had played an important role in your life. You might be spending a lot more time with your spouse or partner, which may or may not be good.
It's helpful to take stock of your life and what you imagine for your retirement years. Ask yourself what you will do in retirement. Know that many people choose to keep working part-time -- if you think you'd like to, and retirement isn't that far away, start laying some groundwork. See whether you can stay with your current employer (if you want to).
If you're interested in working elsewhere, seek contacts. AARP recently listed the top companies for those over age 50 to work at, including First Horizon National
Our Rule Your Retirement service distills what you really need to know into a manageable volume each month. A free trial will give you full access to all past issues. It regularly offers recommendations of promising stocks and mutual funds, too.
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