Devil's Advocate 

Don’t Save Your Money

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This is a Devil's Advocate post.

Conventional wisdom says that you need to save your money. You save for retirement, save for your kid’s education (unless you subscribe to idea that you shouldn’t have kids), save for this, save for that. Sacrifice a little today, let some magical force called compound interest take effect, and you will be rich beyond your wildest dreams in 40 years!

However, Americans aren’t stupid. We didn’t save our money to launch the Revolutionary War to escape taxation without representation, we just did it. Heck, we spend so much that our savings rate is negative, beat that!

Here are only a few good reasons why we shouldn’t save.

Inflation Isn’t 3%

“Core inflation,” what the government uses to figure out inflation for a variety of inflation-pegged measures, doesn’t include food and energy. That sounds reasonable in theory, we shouldn’t peg an important number to something that fluctuates so much, but it fails miserably in practice. Food and energy prices have skyrocketed in the last year, yet CPI is still within “reasonable” limits.

Your money is worth less and less each day. Gasoline is at $4 a gallon now. Has your salary increased accordingly? If so, your employer is wonderfully pragmatic. If not, then you’ve experienced an erosion in your money’s purchasing power. That’s economic-speak for you have less money. While we’re not talking crazy Argentina inflation numbers, inflation is still there. Imagine if every night someone went into your bank account and took out a penny or two. How does that make you feel? Now imagine if it’s a ghost and there’s nothing you can do about it… except spend it. If you spend it, they can’t take it.

Retirement May Never Happen

Saving for retirement? Very admirable, but retirement may never happen. I’m not being morbid and saying you might be hit by a bus (seriously, just look both ways before crossing, like Sesame Street says), I’m merely positing the idea that you’ll hate retirement.

You may never want to retire, sit at home, play golf, watch soaps, or buy an RV and travel the United States. You may want to continue working, continue challenging yourself and achieving, and this amazing retirement, that you’re saving for and putting on a pedestal, may never happen. Tim Ferriss, author of the Four Hour Work Week, suggests mini-retirements rather than saving for this monster retirement at the end.

Enjoy When Young

The younger you are, the fewer responsibilities you have. If you’re single with no kids, take advantage of that flexibility and spend your money on the things you can enjoy today. If you’re married with no kids, go on more vacations. If you’re married with kids, it’s game over (just kidding!).

I’ve had numerous friends travel the world and living life (Roberto, Jack, Mark) and they’re under thirty. They’re taking mini-retirements. They’re all very smart individuals who can take a few months off and still find a job on the back end. They’re spending now, rather than later, and enjoying life to the fullest.

Why would you want to do this when you’re 60? Now is the time to do it.

Bequeathing Large Sums to Children = Mistake

Warren Buffett is donating most of his personal fortune to numerous philanthropic organizations, most notably the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. “There’s no reason why future generations of little Buffetts should command society just because they came from the right womb. Where’s the justice in that?” – his words, not mine. If you want some proof or justification for his words, look at Paris Hilton.

I say skip the bequeathing of money to your children. They will grow up and have the opportunity to earn their own money and learn the value of a dollar through hard work. Don’t save for them. Instead, spend it on yourself or spend it on supporting good causes like Buffett did.

Saving is for suckers, don’t be a suck.

{ 7 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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7 Responses to “Don’t Save Your Money”

  1. Jimbo says:

    what a killer post! I love it!

  2. Ta says:

    I’ve seen people seriously talk about point one on blogs such as Survival Blog – they argue that the financial system is in the process of tanking royally and “intangibles” (food and supplies that can help one survive in a world without oil) are the safest place to put money right now.

    Happy thoughts.

  3. Adam says:

    Great column, I love it! Being in my early 20’s I actually agree with the section ‘Enjoy When Young’. I hope to be in the position in a few years to travel with my wife and enjoy the world while I am young. Doing it all in retirement would just be bore and before you know it, you will have been everywhere and bored out of your mind. I also think that I will want to continue to work in retirement and just switch gears to do something more enjoyable. Thanks for the great post!

  4. jim says:

    Haha Ray, it says Devil’s Advocate in a bright red box up top 🙂

  5. I am not sure what the point of saving money is either. Money just represent future purchasing power and what is the point of having a huge pile of it, when I can only spend a little bit at a time. Hence, I try not to save too much. Rather I spend it immediately on dividend paying stocks. That way I have a steady source of cash and thus no need to save it.

    BTW the are at least two vernacular definition of saving money. 1) saving = not spending and 2) saving = storing. I’m a big proponent of (1), whereas I think (2) is a waste of money.

  6. Concierge says:

    Great post! Unfortunately it reflects some of the conventional “wisdom” that we have had the past couple of decades.

  7. J.B. says:

    I would just note that Point 2 is only an option if you have persistent good health into your old age. There’s a reason why people stop working as they get older — less energy, strength and stamina, even for the healthy folk.

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