That’s the American $100 bill.
Saving money is my single greatest challenge. (That, and earning a lot more — like trying to double my income this year in a dying industry. No pressure!)
Today’s New York Times paints a grim picture of how tough it is to save money now, especially for younger people:
A new study from the Urban Institute finds that Ms. Brady and her peers up to roughly age 40 have accrued less wealth than their parents did at the same age, even as the average wealth of Americans has doubled over the last quarter-century.
Because wealth compounds over long periods of time — a dollar saved 10 years ago is worth much more than a dollar saved today — young adults probably face less secure futures for decades down the road, and even shakier retirements.
“In this country, the expectation is that every generation does better than the previous generation,” said Caroline Ratcliffe, an author of the study. “This is no longer the case. This generation might have less.” The authors said the situation facing young Americans might be unprecedented.
A broad range of economic factors has conspired to suppress wealth-building for younger American workers; the trend predates the Great Recession. Younger Americans are facing stagnant pay — the median income, when adjusted for inflation, has declined since its 1999 peak — as well as a housing collapse and soaring student loan debt.
I grew up in a family with good taste and the money to indulge it — cashmere and trips to Mexico or France, a nice house, decent used cars, good food. My maternal grandmother inherited an insane amount of money and ran through it as fast as she possibly could, blowing it on jewels and furs and gorgeously-decorated apartments and a limousine service with a thin driver named Raymond.
It’s weird to grow up around a lot of money and develop tastes for luxury — and then choose a field, journalism, that has rarely paid me enough to satisfy them.
Saving money is so boooooooooring!
And so utterly necessary.
But I save 15-25 percent of my income every year, as does my husband. It means a lot of self-denial and self-discipline, certainly if your income is barely meeting your basic expenses, even pared to the bone.
I’d so much rather go to Paris and buy lots of pretty clothes and see Broadway shows and go away for romantic weekends. But to save the dough we need to retire — which we very much intend to do — demands it. Working freelance also means having no idea, most of the time, what my annual income will be. Not even next month’s.
So it means being aware at all times of what I’m earning, spending, saving and carrying in debt, (and at what rates of interest.) It’s only in the past three or four years — and I’m in my 50s — that saving diligently has finally felt worth it, as my retirement fund is now six figures.
It feels good! (Cue James Brown…)
It’s terrifying to plan so far ahead, to hope we’ll live that long, and healthily, to wonder if all this daily self-denial is even worth it. I get why people don’t.
Saving a ton is certainly easier if you also earn the maximum you possibly can. That might mean working two or three jobs for a while.
Many women, though, remain deeply uncomfortable asking for more money, whether in a salary negotiation or freelance gig. No one is going to hand it to us!
One of my favorite books — every woman who works must read it – is “Women Don’t Ask”, which examines the many reasons women continue to receive lower pay than men for the same work. Mostly because we’re too damn scared to ask for more! (Men do, almost every single time.)
The more I make, the more I can save. (And occasionally splurge.) That motivates me every single time to ask for more work and the highest possible rates for it.
Do you save money?
Do you find it difficult?
Any tips you can share?