It's easy to come up with reasons not to save money for an emergency, job loss, retirement or other need or goal, but not saving can cause considerable financial pain down the road. That's why it's smart to regularly put money in a savings account where it's available for whatever happens in the future.
"Saving is about mindset," says Bob Morrison, principal at Downing Street Wealth Management LLC, a financial planning firm in Littleton, Colo. "It doesn't matter whether you make minimal dollars or a significant amount, you should save a certain percentage and learn to live within that income because you have a responsibility to provide for yourself and your goals for the future."
With that in mind, here are 11 lame excuses not to save money and why they don't work:
I can't afford to save. "People work hard and feel they deserve to live in a certain neighborhood and drive a certain kind of car, but they don't understand that that (spending) comes out of the cost of other things," Morrison says. "If someone has too large a house payment or car payment, it's like a cancer. You want to get rid of it immediately and get on the path to appropriate saving levels."
I'll be earning more in the future, so I'll save then. The problem with this thinking is that tomorrow might not be rosier, or tomorrow's expenses might rise to consume any additional income.
A better approach is to put a little now into a savings account and increase the amount if that pay raise comes through next year, Morrison says. "Try to live on last year's income with today's expenses," he says.
I'm too old to start saving. It's never too late to save money at any age. "Don't think about the past," Morrison says. "That's not constructive. Instead, change the behavior and worry about tomorrow."
I'm expecting a big inheritance. Having well-off parents can create expectations of "a big pot of money out there," but such great expectations don't always pay off, says Andy Tilp, principal at Trillium Valley Financial Planning LLC, in Sherwood, Ore.
"A good majority of us are living a lot longer, and the money needs to be there and needs to get stretched out," Tilp says. The biggest expense: medical and long-term care for the older generation.
I have to pay for my children's nanny, day care or private school. "People want to live a certain lifestyle, but they're not good at saving, and their expectations of where their kids should go to school are not in line with their total savings plans. It's about spending every dime versus putting away for the future," Morrison says.
A better approach is to reconsider club dues, private schools and exotic vacations and instead save money for college tuition and retirement.
I have to pay for my children's college education. Parents often feel obligated to finance their kids' education, perhaps because their own education was paid for by their parents. Tilp says that's an "admirable and important goal," but he warns that if the parents later run out of money and have to move in with or rely financially on their children, the tables can unhappily turn.
I have to help my adult children. Subsidizing an adult child's lifestyle by paying his or her rent, car insurance, cellphone or other bills reinforces the grown-up child's dependence and becomes unhealthy for both generations, Morrison says.
"I ask the parents: Are your children going to provide for you in your retirement? They don't think about that. They're in denial about the future," Morrison says.
Saving and investing don't earn any return. Near-zero interest rates on savings accounts and volatile stock and bond markets might be a disappointment to savers and investors. But low returns aren't a valid reason not to save money, says Robert Schmansky, founder of Clear Financial Advisors LLC in Bloomfield Hills, Mich.
"It's not fun to look at savings accounts and see how little they're earning," he says. "But you have to realize the purpose isn't necessarily to earn a lot of money. It's to be there when you need it."
I need the latest technology. The thinking here is that new technology means greater efficiency and thus a better ability to earn or save a few extra dollars. However, this rationalization doesn't make sense.
"What they're mostly after is having the latest gadget and the coolest way to play 'Angry Birds,'" Schmansky says. "People who are wealthy don't think that way. It's a matter of priorities."
I can tap my home equity if I need cash. Many people who used this excuse not to save money during the housing boom found out too late that it wasn't a smart strategy.
"When the housing market went down and the home equity loans went away, they were left without that emergency fund and without the home equity. It helps to have a balanced approach," Schmansky says.
I'll get a severance package if I'm laid off. A severance-pay benefit is a good safety net to have. Still, employees need to be prepared for the possibility that their company won't honor such obligations, Schmansky says.
"You have to consider whether your employer will be in a position to provide that benefit to you," Schmansky says. "You already rely on them for your income, benefits, retirement. Do you want to rely on them for your emergency fund as well?"
The answer is no.