The media provides no shortage of articles giving recommendations of how much households should save to afford retirement, from rules of thumb like “save 10% to 15% of your annual income” to more detailed research studies providing “precise” savings guidelines based on age, income level, and targeted retirement income replacement rates. The caveat to all of these tools, though, is that they presume the household has flexible discretionary dollars available to save in the first place.

Yet in reality, most households struggle to save because there is no money left at the end of the month to save in the first place. Because technically their problem isn’t a savings rate that’s too low; it’s a spending rate that’s too high, in one or more categories, that is causing all of the available household income to be consumed before the end of the month is even reached!

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Written By: Michael Kitces

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