Erasing Debt

Taking the Long View of Personal Finance

Do you want the bad news first, or would you rather have the good news? I’ll start with the bad news. Most people in the United States live for today. The average American is deep in debt, and this debt can really lead to many difficulties in life.  A person’s savings rate is the leading indicator for future wealth. This indicator reached an all-time high of 17 percent of income back in 1975, but by July 2005, the rate was at an all-time low of less than 2 percent. Today, the savings rate for the average American has reached 5.7 percent, which is three times what it was just a decade ago.  The good news is that there are some pretty easy steps to take to improve your personal savings rate and shore up your finances.

The reason for this increase is probably related to what happened between 2005 and today–the Great Recession.  People were shaken by the sudden crash of the economy. While a savings rate of between 5 and 10 percent might seem impressive given where it’s come from just a few years ago, it’s still not all that great. The popular site Mr. Money Mustache has a pretty amazing article on “The Shockingly Simple Math Behind Early Retirement” that looks at how the savings rate can determine how long a person has to work.  A person who saves 5 percent a year will have to work about 66 years to be able to retire comfortably. Fewer teenagers are working today, so this means that a 20-something who starts to work today will need to work until about age 90 before they can let someone else take over their job.

This math presupposes that there is no pension waiting on a worker and that the doomsday scenarios of Social Security that claim it will pay nothing at sometime in the not-too-distant future will come frighteningly to fruition.  This means that the savings rate of American workers is woefully short of what it needs to be. Even the record savings rate in the post-1959 world that was noted above will require quite a bit of work. A 17 percent savings rate means that a worker can retire right around the “traditional” retirement age after working approximately 40 years, again assuming that there is no pension or Social Security payment coming. Needless to say, this is not a terribly comforting situation.

These numbers are why it’s important to take a long view when it comes to personal finance.  Those who fail to plan actually plan to fail, so getting some goals together is a good idea. I don’t know about you, but having to work until 90 would mean that I’d probably be dead before I can afford to quit working on a full-time basis.  That does not seem like a terribly enjoyable path to take. The time to start planning for retirement was 10 years ago. However, if you didn’t put in the effort to plan 10 years ago, the second best time is now.

This is where earning money in pajamas proves to be a great idea. If your main gig barely pays the bills, there are exactly two ways to save money (outside of having a long, lost extremely rich uncle give you a massive inheritance or hitting the lottery, which is a losing proposition because the house always has to win). These first of these two realistic methods is cutting expenses. With the number of high-paying jobs not being what most Americans might wish, keeping expenses down is definitely an important step to take to ensure that you can build wealth over time.

The second option for saving more money involves finding other avenues to make money. With the advent of the Interwebs, the opportunities for making more money are quite extensive. Here are 11 such options that I’ve shared before for making extra moolah online .  Few jobs require employees to work every waking hour, so most workers will have several hours each week to earn more money. The best part about utilizing the Internet means of making money is that you don’t have to leave the house. You can literally sit around in your pajamas on a Saturday afternoon and make a bit of money while watching football. If you have a connection to the Internet, there is absolutely no reason why you shouldn’t attempt to make more money. The link above has some great ways that I’ve been able to make money. I’ve used a few to make more than $1,000.

It’s important to take the long view of personal finance when thinking about making money online because it’s easy to get discouraged. A few hundred dollars a year might not seem like much, but your future self will appreciate that your current self decided to save some money for the future. I’ve noted before that saving just a dollar a day between the ages of 16 and the “normal” retirement age of 65 will yield an account of around $286,000 if an 8 percent return can be realized.  The power of a simple dollar can be quite amazing.  If you can raise this amount to $2 a day in additional income that you can save, you’ll have around half a million by retirement. Only $4 a day will lead to a cool million by 65 if you can start at 16. Discipline is important through all of this, and it’s important to stay in the market.

Those who are able to engage in both of the strategies listed above can super-charge their trek toward retirement. Cutting $4 in spending each day and then making just $4 extra per day and then saving the $8 would lead to nearly $3000 in savings after just a year and nearly $2 million over a 50-year period if you were able to earn an 8-percent return. Those who do not have 50 years to play with can still make some major progress with just a few small tweaks. Even if you’re only looking at 20 years until needing the money, you’ll still be way ahead of what you would have should you never have started to begin with. The time to start making some money in pajamas is now. The sooner you do, the sooner you can start saving and taking advantage of the compounding process.  Thinking of the long terms is the only way to make this happen, however, so be sure to get started today.

Disclaimer: I can receive compensation if you sign up for some of the programs that I’ve reviewed using one of my referral links. I definitely appreciate the support, but in the interest of full disclosure, you can still get the the same benefits without using my link. 

If you’ve appreciated or otherwise enjoyed this post, be sure to sign up to get updates when I post any new articles.