February 21, 2014
By Nevin Adams, EBRI
I’ve never been very keen on going to the dentist. As important as I believe dental hygiene to be, I’ve come to associate my visits with the dentist with bad things: some level of discomfort, perhaps even pain, a flossing lecture from the hygienist, at the very least. Most of which is readily avoided by doing the things I know I should be doing regularly – brushing, flossing, a better diet. And knowing that I haven’t done what I should have been doing, I have good reason to believe that my visit to the dentist will be a negative experience – and so I put it off.
However, it’s not as though the postponement makes the situation any better; if anything, the delay makes the eventual “confrontation” with reality worse. That’s what retirement planning is like for many: They know they should be saving, know that they should be saving more, but they hesitate to go through the process of a retirement needs calculation because they are leery of the “pain” of going through the exercise itself, or perhaps even afraid that their checkup will confirm their lack of attentiveness to their fiscal health. And, like the postponed dental visit, putting it off not only does nothing to rectify the situation, the passage of time (without action) may even allow the situation to worsen.
Indeed, the Retirement Confidence Survey (RCS)[i] has previously found that workers who have done a retirement needs calculation tend to be considerably more confident about their ability to save the amount needed for a financially comfortable retirement than those who have not done so, despite the fact that those doing a calculation tend to cite higher retirement savings goals. In the 2013 RCS, 31 percent who have done a calculation, compared with 14 percent who have not, say they are very confident that they will be able to accumulate the amount they need, while 12 percent who have not done a calculation, compared with 3 percent who have, report they are not at all confident in their ability to save the amount needed for a financially comfortable retirement.
Next week we’ll commemorate America Saves Week[ii], an annual opportunity for organizations to promote good savings behavior[iii] and a chance for individuals to assess their own saving status. Not because saving is something you should do once a year, or that reconsidering your financial goals and progress is well-suited to a particular week on the calendar, but because it IS something that should be done regularly in order to be effective.
Over time, I have found that when I make (and keep) regular dentist appointments, those visits are much less painful, and considerably less stressful than the times when I have gone “too long” between appointments.
Similarly, regular savings checkups – like those inspired by events like America Saves Week – can be a lot less “painful” than you might think.
You can assess your savings plan here.
For a list of six reasons why you—or those you care about—should save, and specifically save for retirement now, see “Sooner or Later“:
[ii] America Saves Week is an annual event where hundreds of national and local organizations promote good savings behavior and individuals are encouraged to assess their own saving status. Coordinated by America Saves and the American Savings Education Council, America Saves Week is February 24–March 1, 2014, a nationwide effort to help people save more successfully and take financial action. More information is available at www.americasavesweek.org.