Confessions of a Non-Saver

At the risk of offending some of my audience, I have a bit of a secret to reveal: I am a non-saver by nature. Yes, you read that correctly - I am a non-saver.

I know what you’re saying: “He works in the Retirement Plan Industry! How in the world is he not a saver? Is he just not very bright?”

Yes, I do work in the Retirement Plan Industry.  And yes, on my good days, I pass myself off as somewhat intelligent. So why am I NOT a saver?

I grew up quite poor in a single-parent family in Brooklyn, New York.  While my classmates were opening up kids’ savings accounts and otherwise learning the value of saving, by age ten I was working and giving my meager income to my mother so that she we could provide food and keep a roof over our heads.

Ultimately, my mother, who worked days and went to school at night, worked her way out of the apartment complex that we not-so-affectionately dubbed the “roach motel.” And I earned a scholarship to high school, then college, and then secured a job here at Cammack Retirement Group.  Yet, my lack of savings knowledge resulted in, well, not saving.  As Jackie Gleason’s character, Ralph Kramden, once said in a classic Honeymooners skit: “It came easy, and it went just as fast.”  My paychecks were generally spent in celebration of my newfound prosperity, which, at the time, was just fine by me.  

However, since I worked at a retirement company, after all, I did do one thing that I normally never would have done. When I completed my benefits paperwork upon hire, I set aside money into the retirement plan. I don’t remember how much, but I believe it was a significant amount (around 10%).

Did I do it because I worked at a retirement company and I thought it would be hypocritical if I did not save in the retirement plan?  Absolutely not.  To be honest, as a file clerk, I barely knew what the company did and I thought I would be there for six months until I secured a “real” job. I contributed to my retirement plan because, among my newfound friends and peers at the firm, it would have been “uncool” not to.

That was 26 years ago, much longer than the six months I thought I would be here. While I am still not what you might call a saver, I am learning, and I sure am glad I wanted to be “cool” back in the day! If nothing else, I know I will have a comfortable retirement.

Why do I share this story? Well, in my 26 years, I have observed many plan sponsor clients. They generally fall into two types: those organizations that create a culture where it is cool to save, and those that are indifferent.  Those that create cultures of saving do not generally do so through award-winning recordkeeper communication campaigns, fancy websites, or apps (though all can help if designed properly), but through supervisors and peers who create an environment where it is simply considered “uncool” for their colleagues not to save for retirement. And these cultures of saving can be found at organizations far afield from retirement, like manufacturing and service firms, healthcare organizations, governments, and higher education institutions.

Most companies, alas, do fall into the indifferent category. But I have seen companies move from the indifferent to the “saving is cool” camp, so it is never too late to change. We are all aware of the return on investment: employees who are able to retire on-time allow for other talented employees to be retained, since they can be promoted into the positions of the retiring employees.  A win for all involved.

Note: This feature is to provide general information only, does not constitute legal advice, and cannot be used or substituted for legal or tax advice. Opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily represent the opinions of Cammack Retirement Group.

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