Two of the hardest things in life are to save when you’re young and spend when you’re old. As I assume that most readers of this article do not yet qualify as “old”, we’ll look at the difficulty many young people have in saving.
Financial planning guru Mick Jagger once stated that “Time is on my side”. Yes it is, and those of us who can start saving early get a head start on those who wait until they can “afford” to start setting money aside. There are several things that can exert a drag on our savings during the early years of our career.
One is the fact that many of us do not see ourselves remaining with the government throughout our whole career. We expect to use our federal career as a springboard to bigger, better and more lucrative pursuits. If this is the case, we are likely to wait until we achieve that expected success before we start setting money aside; after all, we’ll have a lot of it then.
Another is the fact that the start of our career might coincide with the start of a family. We will have other items to save for, such as: purchase of a home; children’s education, etc. When you are tempted to put off retirement savings for these other valid savings goals, take a minute to ask yourself which of these three items a bank is unlikely to give you a loan for: 1) purchase of a home; 2) education for your children; or 3) your retirement.
Yet another is that it is hard to conceive of ourselves as being of retirement age. After all, when we’re 25 and a newly minted federal employee, there are more things that appeal to us than where we will be financially 30 or more years down the road. If, at age 25, you had a choice between contributing more to your Thrift Savings Plan and making monthly payments on a Z-28 Camaro – which would you choose?
Let’s look at two FERS employees who both started in their 20s and each worked for 30 years. Their starting salary was $50,000 and their salary increased 1% per year. One began putting 5% of their salary (enough to get an additional 5% from their agency) from the beginning. The other spent their money on Z-28 Camaros and other toys until ten years had passed; then they began putting 5% of their salary in the TSP. They never increased their contribution rate. Their TSP investments grew at a rate of 5% per year.
The employee who started right away will have almost twice as much ($380,622) than the employee who waited ten years ($202,597). Time truly was on his side – yes it was! Imagine how much more either of them could have had if they had contributed more than 5%, or if their salary had increased at a more rapid pace.
We’ll finish with a couple of quotes from philosophers who are even older than Mick Jagger. Erasmus said, “Frugality is a handsome income.” and Seneca told us that, “Economy is a great source of revenue.”