Do You Have the Discipline to Save for Retirement?

When our sons were younger and struggling to study or train for an athletic competition, I frequently pulled out this mantra: The pain of discipline is far less than the pain of regret. No one who received an “A” on an exam or crossed the finish line with a personal-best time ever complained about the preparation required. According to a recent article from someone with first hand experience, discipline is something that many retirement non-savers lack.

With retirement saving, the fundamental discipline problem is the willingness to honestly separate spending “wants” from “needs” while keeping retirement saving firmly in the “needs” category.

At least one financial planner reports this frequent sequence of responses when clients engage him to provide guidance for retirement.

1. When asked how much retirement income the clients expect to need, the answer is “I don’t know.” (I can understand this.)

2. As a follow-up, the planner asks the clients what their current spending budget is or category spending levels are. The answer: “I don’t know.” (This reflects an irresponsible but curable attitude.)

3. So, the planner asks the clients to go home, study their actual recurring spending and savings amounts in different categories, and report back.

4. Many clients leave with their homework assignment but never return. Apparently, facing and analyzing their own spending is just too much to handle. (This shows a definite lack of discipline.)

When clients are challenged about their spending on new cars and vacations instead of for retirement, this planner hears responses such as:

“A new SUV is a “need” not a “want” because it’s just not safe to be out on the road without one. “

“A vacation in the Caribbean is not merely a dream, but a family health necessity.”

And guess what category of spending no client stated was a “need”?   Saving for retirement.

Wow. I guess these folks were looking for a magic bullet, no sacrifice, retirement plan and when it didn’t materialize in that first visit, they bailed on the entire process.

As the writer points out, it takes discipline to stop rationalizing unnecessary spending.

Sadly, many of our fellow boomers just don’t have that discipline. What may follow, years down the road, is the pain of regret.

Here is the link to the full article:  Saving for Retirement is Possible.


  1. Brian says

    Our mantra in the Corps “The more you sweat in peace, the less you bleed in war”.

    Besides having the discipline to save, you need to have a plan and a ability to change course as need.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *