Does Constant Saving really win the Race?

Because a picture is worth a thousand words, I thought I’d show you the difference between saving for retirement as a slow-and-steady vs wait-to-the-last-minute-then-go-balls-to-the-wall race.

Imagine you just graduated (high school, trade school, or college; all skill levels are valid) and your first big girl job offers you a starting salary of $50,000, and you’re promised that will go up 3% every year. Woo!!

Your employer also offers the chance to save directly onto a retirement plan. But retirement seems so far off in the future, and you have bills to pay 👏🏻 right 👏🏻 now. What would happen if you put off that saving until about 10 years before you think you wanna stop working? You promise yourself that when you hit that 10 year-until-retirement mark, you’re gonna buckle down and put half of your income towards investing. Surely that’ll make up for all the years you missed, right?

The first chart shows the difference in annual saving amount.

Does Constant Saving really win the Race? The annual amount being saved by two different hypothetical savers.

Someone who decides to put 10% of their salary towards saving and investing for all 40 years of their working life is our slow-and-steady Gold saver. The most that person will put away in any year is $15,800. Our Maroon line is our waiting-until-later saver. They don’t save anything until year 30, and by the time they buckle down to save half their income they’ll be cramming away $58,000 as a starting point.

The second chart shows the difference in spending power both our savers experience.

Does Constant Saving really win the Race? The annual amount being spent by two different hypothetical savers.

Gold gets to spend 90% of their income all through their life.

Maroon gets to party it up and spend 100% (really not that much more than Gold) for the first 30 years, but then has to cut their spending by half for the final 10 years because the rest of their money is being invested.

And let me tell you, baby doll, cutting your spending at all is hella hard. Cutting spending by half will be Herculean.

Personally, I think this is my favorite chart because it shows that the little effort really is a little thing. It doesn’t take much to do yourself a big favor.

The third and final chart shows the pay off of these two strategies.

Does Constant Saving really win the Race? The annual dollar amount of wealth built by two different hypothetical savers.

Because our Gold saver has been earning about 7% on their money every single year, their account is more bloated than you the day before your period starts. They’ll close out a 40-year career with about $1.6M in the bank (really, it’s in the investment account. But you know what I mean).


The Maroon saver has been living miserably for the past 10 years because they have had to save so much AND they’re going to end up with about a half-a-million-dollars less than Gold.

The verdict? Yes. Constant saving really does win the race.

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Wisconsin CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional and educator Sarah Paulson


Meet Sarah Paulson, your

Although I’m a born-and-raised Wisconsinite – living in Appleton, Wisconsin –

I consider myself more of a world citizen.

True story: once when going through international customs in Amsterdam, the officers asked why they couldn’t find a Dutch residency permit in my American passport.

I bring a big world picture to my money management advice so you can view the wider world, too.

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