Ali Malito received a lot of push back on her MarketWatch article that says people should have two times their income saved (read: invested) by age 35. She received tons of not-too-nice comments about how ridiculous this statement was. Folks came out of the woodwork to let her know it was impossible because of their “fill-in-the-blank” situation which included raising kids, or massive student loans, or a relative they were caring for, or the high cost of living city they live in, etc., etc.
At the end of the day, this advice just isn’t applicable to some people. But what advice can be applied to everyone? None. This is just a rule of thumb that was put forth by Fidelity, but with that said, I think it’s a decent goal for people to at least strive for.
Achieving this benchmark is something that won’t just happen. You can’t start working at 22, drift through the next 13 years, and arrive at 35 with two times your income saved for retirement. It takes planning and sacrifice in most scenarios, and we all know sacrifices are easier before potential marriage and kids.
When you have an aspirational goal, it usually means to reach that goal you’ll need to sacrifice in another area of your life. Want to become bad ass at playing guitar? It might mean you will either cook dinner or work out less. Maybe you can’t learn Spanish like you wanted to. If you want to have two times your income saved by age 35, it will take making financial sacrifices in other areas of life. Here’s a look at the big ones that will give the largest leg up.
The best way to decrease your housing costs so you have more discretionary funds to save, is to live with roommates. Your 20’s are a perfect time to live with roommates. It’s not that bad. Most people are used to it from college. Find friends that work in the same area, that share some of the same interests, and aren’t pigs and split a place. Sure it may cramp your style for a bit, but that will be outweighed by the money you save.
You don’t need a brand-new car, ever… plain and simple. Nowadays, cars last a long time. 1999 Camry’s are still on the road with 200,000+ miles and only ever really need some brakes, tires, and oil changes. If you live in a big city, with good public transportation, then ditch the car altogether. Rent one on the weekends you want to get out of town.
Places like Trader Joe’s and Aldi are great places to shop for groceries. You don’t need to exclusively shop at Whole Foods. You probably have these or another discount grocery in your area, use them. They could save you hundreds of dollars per month. Don’t get caught up in the hamster wheel of grabbing Starbucks on your way into work, going out to grab a sandwich or salad downstairs from your office at lunch, and then going out for dinner. This is a recipe for having little to no retirement savings. Invest in a crock pot. Leftovers are a great alternative for going out for lunch. Cooking can also be fun and something you do with your significant other and friends.
You can only cut your expenses so much without getting to a point where it affects your happiness. Your 20’s is a great time to put your nose to the grindstone to increase your income in your day job, or pursue an entrepreneurial goal. If your employer doesn’t recognize hard work and high performance, start looking for another job. If you don’t have the skills to command a higher salary, start reading and studying to boost your skills and become more sought after by employers.
In the end, I understand everyone still needs to have some fun. Going out for beers with friends, or that fancy gym membership, or whatever your vice is – do it. Just don’t do EVERYTHING, choose what is important to you, and cut back on the rest. Your 35 year old self with thank you.