Fifty-six percent of U.S. adults feel behind on saving for retirement, and more than 1 in 5 haven't contributed to their retirement savings in the past year, according to a August 2023 Bankrate survey. Respondents cited inflation and student debt as key drags on their ability to save.
Yet some Americans are not only staying committed to their savings goals in an uncertain economy — they’re exceeding them.
These “super savers,” as defined in an annual survey by Principal Financial Group, set aside 15 percent or more of their salary in retirement accounts or make 90 percent of the maximum retirement contribution set annually by the IRS.
The most successful retirement savers have cultivated certain habits that help them achieve their goals, financial advisers say. Here’s what we can learn from them.
1. Start as soon as you can (but it’s never too late)
For its 2022 study, Principal polled more than 1,100 investors ages 18 to 57 about how and how much they save. The survey found that many super savers start young, often taking a cue from thrifty parents, and stay the course, consistently setting money aside through good economic times and bad (see No. 2).
“Habits form early in life, and money habits are no different,” observes David Peters, a senior financial advisor with CFO Capital Management.
That doesn’t mean you can’t learn to be a saver when you’re older.
“Don't ever approach it as, ‘I don't have time,’ or ‘I started too late,’ ” says Sri Reddy, senior vice president for retirement and income solutions at Principal. “It's like exercise, stopping smoking or anything else. Even if you haven't done it your whole life, you're better off doing it now than not doing it.”
2. Focus on the long game
Inflation up? Stock market down? Short-term volatility doesn’t faze super savers. They might curb their spending when consumer prices rise or a recession looms, but they stick to their savings goals, or even ratchet them up.
According to the Principal survey, 54 percent of top-level savers have been setting aside more money over the last two years. Nearly 3 in 5 expect to save more than $20,000 for retirement this year alone. Amid a market downturn, those who continue to invest could benefit from rising stock prices in an economic recovery. With the Federal Reserve boosting interest rates in a bid to check inflation, this is also a good time to put money into savings, Reddy says.