This piece first appeared on My Smart Money Blog. See the author’s bio and contact info below the post.
Recently, Marketwatch put out an article that states by 35, you should have about two times your salary saved. They aren’t alone in this, Fidelity also encourages 35 year olds to have 2x saved. So if you earn $40,000 a year, by 35, you should have $80,000 saved in your retirement accounts. Like many of you, that didn’t happen for me by 35. In fact, I didn’t start saving aggressively until I WAS 35. Full disclosure, I work in education, I don’t make 6 figures a year, I had a roommate, don’t have kids, and I was in graduate school on a full tuition scholarship due to working at the university. Five years later, I saved $100,000 with no student loans or credit card debit.
At 35, I was told my financial advisor at our university that I had lost out on $12,000 by not meeting the match for our 401K. The realization of being 35 with no savings hit me full on and I knew I was running out of time. We didn’t have a pension like many state schools or country districts. I had to do something fast. I looked at my finances and started the process of negotiating everything down. I asked work if I could use my work cell phone occasionally for private calls and got rid of my personal cell phone (yes, everything I do is G-rated on my work phone). That saved me about $60 a month.
Here are some other changes I made to save thousands of dollars a month:
- I called our cable company and got the economy internet package for $19 a month.
- I negotiated with our security system and went from $33 a month to $21.
- I left my $25 a month gym for a $10 a month gym that was closer to my house.
- I switched our heavy down comforter to a lighter down comforter and changed the thermostat from 73 to 75 at night saving about $20 a month.
- I reduced eating out from 3-4 times a week to 3-4 times a month and used Groupons to save at least ½ the bill. This saved me at least $600 a month.
- I stopped going out to bars every weekend and would often invite friends over or drink at home then go to dinner savings about $50 a week.
- I learned how to save money by stacking deals.
- I brown bagged my lunch saving about $40 a week.
- I removed the Starbucks app from my phone and brewed organic coffee at home using organic milk. Not only did I remove pesticides and chemicals from my coffee, but I saved $250 a year.
- I stopped having a housekeeper twice a month. Yes, I know. Don’t judge, I shared the cost with my roommate and it saved us from arguing about who needed to clean.
I used the free Mint app to track my purchases and get inspired by watching my net worth grow. In addition to saving aggressively, I worked several side hustles. I would occasionally build websites for small businesses. I was able to barter website updates with my hair salon and save $70 a month or $840 a year! I started social media management for my church and made a respectable $250 a month. I worked as a mystery shopper and earned about $200-$350 a month.
When all was said and done, I went from not saving anything each month to almost 38% of my gross income. I did this while in graduate school and working full time. Living with a roommate and then my wife was a huge way to save money. I only pay $500 in rent and my car is fully paid off (and 18 years old).
Gen X tends to be ignored by many of the personal finance community which is unfortunate. As with many things, we take it in stride ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ I’m now 42 and have about $210,000 saved with a goal to retire before I’m 55. According to MarketWatch’s financial visualizer, I’m on track.