What's the point of saving money for the future, you know, beyond just watching it grow? Should you save money, or enjoy life?
I came to a point in my money journey where I started questioning what's the point of saving money.
You know, just saving it, and saving it, and saving it…not to ever actually spend it, but just watching it grow.
Let me explain.
Rewind to 2010: my husband and I had paid off the last of our combined $59,496 in debt a year before that (less than 5 months after getting married). The celebration was particularly sweet, because thanks to the Iceland Volcano Eruption, our honeymoon to Austria was put on hold…so by the time we could go in late 2010 we were consumer and student-loan debt free!
Those were good times.
Then, I felt…off.
The Financial Doldrums
Something changed after we had met all of our goals. We got back from Austria feeling just amazing. And then, we entered this sort of financial doldrums period. We didn't know what we wanted to save for next. And we stayed in this savings-rut for at least a good year.
My conclusion was that it was a bad thing to save money with no purpose at all. Probably because it felt kind of “meh” while we were there. It's not like we were saving for something specific + sexy anymore. We were just saving for saving's sake.
How could I not know what I wanted to save up for? Wasn't there a trip I wanted to take, or something I was supposed to do with all of this money we were fortunate enough to set aside?
I even wrote a post about it that I never actually published, just needing to put into words the floundering going on in my head at the time.
But I now have a completely different outlook on saving money with no specific purpose: it has a very specific purpose indeed.
And it only came out to smack me over the head while reading someone else's question on Facebook the other day.
Psst: Not too great on saving money? Saving money is a learned skill. Here's my epic guide on 250 saving money tips you've GOT to check out. Your savings account will thank you.
Saving Money Always has a Purpose
A woman had started an automatic savings plan (you go, girl!). But she was struggling with something. Specifically, she was struggling with wanting to put money into savings that she will never spend. She wanted to know if others had a pot of money they would never spend, and how they felt about contributing to it. In her mind, it was simply to pass on money to the next generation, and that didn't rub her the right way. She wanted to know if others bought into having a pot of money they will never spend, and what their thinking was around it.
Her question spoke to me, and I responded to her within a minute of reading it.
Here's my response:
“I actually have a totally different outlook on savings that you will never spend. What it buys is not tangible. It buys you confidence in decisions because you have a plan B, leaps of faith should you want to take them, security, and being able to base decisions on things not having to do with money. Those are very worth it in my book!”
That answer was based on our own experiences and advantages – gained by having a pot of money that we will never spend – that look something like this:
- Paul and I decided to move to Houston to live in the same time zone together for the first time, before I found a job (now we're husband and wife!)
- Quitting my day job to pursue my passion and build a business full-time
- Getting to Call 5 Months of Unemployment 5 Months of Mini-Retirement
Pretty amazing, right? Do you think we would have had it so “lucky” if we hadn't had a pot of money waiting to catch us should we fall? Nah. I'm sure we would not have taken those leaps of faith, and that stint of unemployment would have felt like an episode on Shark Week instead of a mini-retirement tryout.
Sometimes, it Sucks to Save Money
I'll be the first to admit that sometimes pushing “submit” to send money from checking into savings can suck at times.
A few weeks ago I was about to send an awesome $500 from our checking account to savings…and I hesitated.
Yes, that money was still ours no matter which account I put it in.
Yes, I love to see our savings grow.
But sometimes it can feel like you're losing that money (especially when you treat your savings account like a black hole, like we do).
The fact is, if you're putting money into your permanent savings, then you're essentially saying “I'm not going to spend this money for the foreseeable future…or ever”, and so it can feel like it's gone.
But you need to change your thinking on this. Saving money always has a purpose, even if it's not quite defined yet.
Pro Tip: Wondering how to save money without touching it? Do what we do and make your savings account a “black hole”. Once the money goes into your savings account, it becomes dead to you — like it never existed to begin with. When you shift your thinking this way, then you can come up with all kinds of other creative solutions to problems instead of tapping your savings account.
What's the Point of a Savings Account?
Saving money has a purpose, and I hope I've shown you that.
But, what's the purpose of a savings account? Why not just stuff your money in a mattress or last year's old pickle mason jar, and be done with it?
There are several purposes to having a savings account, and they're worth mentioning.
Reasons to keep money in a bank:
- You Earn Interest: Banks pay you for having your money at their bank. That's because they then lend your money to others and get paid an interest rate in return (like when you pay your mortgage or car lease, and you pay an interest rate on top of the principal amount). But don't worry about others not paying the bank back and you losing your money — see below.
- You Protect Your Money: Most financial institutions have insurance on your account balance of up to $250,000 through the FDIC (Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation). That's up to $250,000 on your money you put into the account plus any interest earned (though it can't go over $250,000 per account). If your money stays at home, someone could steal it, your home could burn down and you'd lose it, or you could simply lose it.
- Keeps Things Organized: Most banks (and definitely online ones) allow you to create multiple savings accounts. So, you can keep all of your savings goals separated and organized.
- Gives You a Place to Direct Deposit: You can use this account to directly deposit part of your paycheck, and send automatic withdrawals from your checking account. By setting up direct deposit with your HR at work, and setting up automatic withdrawals, you don't have to stop at a physical bank!
If you've got a pot of money that you won't be touching anytime soon, then perhaps it is time for you and your family to take a leap of faith or enjoy some of the other non-tangible benefits of it. Let me know how you are doing just that in the comments below!