Top of Mind

Helping Those Who Can’t Afford to Save for Retirement (or Anything Else)

The number one reason given by people who don’t save for retirement is that they cannot afford it. And, for some people, this is truly the case; their income is so low, relative to necessary expenses, that they are unable to save at all. For these individuals, Social Security provides a decent safety; therefore, unless their circumstances change for the better, saving for retirement is likely a moot point.

However, for the majority of people who claim that they cannot afford to save, there are likely ways that they could generate additional money to do so. And no, I’m not referring to cutting back on lattes, or anything thing else that is a sacrifice or would otherwise make life less enjoyable. There are many ways that people set money on fire, and there are a variety of simple actions that can be taken to prevent that from happening. Here are some of the tactics I have personally used to generate additional money:

  • Cut the Cord | Savings: $150/month — I used to pay an embarrassing amount of money for satellite television. However, I finally got wise to the fact that it makes no sense to pay for channels that I don’t want, if it can be avoided. So, I switched to a combination of streaming services that give me all the channels I want, at the “expense” of getting rid of most of the ones I didn’t watch. Now, I did have two old TVs that did not have streaming devices (most new TVs include them), but I purchased devices, for less than $50 each, that gave them streaming capabilities. Setting up streaming is even easier than setting up satellite, as it is a lot like installing apps on a smartphone. For those who don’t want as robust a television experience as I enjoy, even more money can likely be saved. For example, there are some apps that even stream movies and other content (with ads) for free! Overall, my television experience is far better than it used to be - and I pay less!
  • Get Rid of Your Landline Phone | Savings: $60/month — Yes, some people still have them – and I was one of them until a few years ago. But, for the vast majority of people, there is little reason to have one, even for older folks like me. So, call your phone company and, better yet, sell that vintage landline phone of yours (see below). You’ll be glad you did. Not having a home phone has had no negative impact since I got rid of it, except for making my wallet a bit heavier!
  • Declutter and Sell that Clutter Online | Additional Income: $250/month — Most people I know have way too much “junk”. When I moved a few years ago and had to clean out a shed and two attics full of clutter, I said “never again!” I started selling things on a popular online reselling website. This accomplished two things: I made money from the sales and I ended up spending less because, before the decluttering, I was literally purchasing things I already had! The resale sites make it easy to sell things and they even enable postage label printing on your own printer, to be dropped in your mailbox! As for packing materials, reuse those envelopes and cardboard boxes from your mail. Worried that people won’t buy your “junk”? I have news for you — they will! As someone who has now sold over 700 items with a 100% success rate, I am living proof!
  • Use Cashback Sites | Savings: $20/month — Anyone remember rebates? If not, they were a way of getting cash back on items purchased by mailing in a form and proofs of purchase. Cashback sites are a modern form of this, without the cumbersome paperwork. This is one of my favorite ways to save money, due to the fact that it is so simple. In most cases, you just go to the websites (here is a good article on some of the many options out there), install their browser extension and that’s it. In-person shopping is just a bit more complicated; usually a picture of the receipt or a frequent shopper number needs to be entered into an app, but it is still quite simple.
  • Take a Smarter Approach to Doing Laundry | Savings: $20/month — Whether using a washer and dryer in the house or going to a laundromat, you may be able to clean your clothes in a less expensive manner with just a few minor changes to your laundry routine. Between washing my clothes in cold water, washing only full loads, using less detergent, and replacing dryer sheets with reusable lavender sachets, I was able to save money. My clothes actually look and feel better than they did using my old routine — it must be the lavender!

With just these five action steps, I was able to save a total of $500/month. If I were to save just half of that toward retirement, and other goals, and I earn 3% annually, I’ll have over $15,000 in just five years, over $34,000 in 10 years, and nearly $143,000 in 30 years! Not bad for some slight changes that had no negative impact on my lifestyle.

Of course, everyone’s savings will vary, and not everyone will be able to implement these five specific action steps. However, there are literally hundreds of ways that people waste money with no corresponding benefit. So, if these five actions don’t work for one person, chances are there are five or more other actions out there that will. Here is just one of many articles out there on the subject.

So, the next time a retirement plan participant tells you that he/she cannot afford to save, feel free to share this article!

What interesting methods of saving money/increasing income have you implemented? Let me know on LinkedIn, Twitter or at

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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