I sometimes complain about personal finance-related issues, but the fact is, I basically like being financially responsible. I like seeing the balance on my savings account rise. I like seeing the balances on my loans fall. I like budgeting and tracking spending. I like accomplishing financial goals, then moving on to new ones.
So even though it was a lot of work, and it took a lot of sacrifice, I really like my new financial life. With one notable exception: I hate saving for retirement. It is my least favorite thing to do with my money. In fact, I frequently try to talk myself out of making my monthly Roth contribution.
The reasons for this are both tangible and abstract. Tangibly, I want to be using the money for something else, something more fun. Not necessarily in a frivolous, spend-y way, but maybe saving up for a trip or a house. But really, there are ways I could free up other money for these goals. It’s my more abstract objections with saving for retirement that really gnaw at me. For example, I may never even use my retirement savings. I know it’s sort of morbid, but retirement is over 30 years away for me. I could die before I ever use that money after I was so disciplined to save it. On another pessimistic note, I also think that no matter how much I save, it might never be enough. I could diligently sock away my money every month, then, two years before I’m ready to leave the workforce the Second Great Recession could hit, and it all would have been for naught.
But those are thoughts that are really borne out of a much broader, even more abstract problem I have with the position that American workers are in, which is this: I hate the concept that I’m working my ass off right now to save up my hard-earned money so that I can afford being too old to work, a time when I really don’t picture myself enjoying the money anyway. Something about that just seems wrong. Work your whole life, sacrifice other financial goals because you’re saving for retirement, just so in the end you can…be old? It’s so depressing.
Admittedly, a big part of all this is that I don’t dream about retirement and get excited about the day that I no longer have to work because I genuinely like my job and can’t ever picture not wanting to do it anymore. I’ve never even taken a summer off from teaching, let alone the rest of my life. I really do want to work for as long as I possibly can.
But, every month, I put $200 into my Roth IRA anyway. Why? Because I know it’s the financially right thing to do, that’s why. And that’s the only good reason I have. My one consolation is that I can get those contributions back into my hands without taxes or penalties any time I want to. If a 401k or 403b was my only option – that is, if my money was going to be all tied up and difficult to access – I can honestly say I wouldn’t be saving for retirement at all.
Am I the only one who hates saving for retirement? Please, someone talk some sense into me about this!