Atlantic Capital Management

Atlantic Capital Management (89)

Thursday, 30 April 2015 00:00

The Psychology of Saving

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How many households have the right outlook to build wealth?

 

Why do some households save more than others? Building household savings may depend not only on cash flow, but also on psychology. With the right outlook, saving becomes a commitment. With a less positive outlook, it becomes a task – and tasks and chores are often postponed.

Financially speaking, saving is winning. Sometimes that lesson is lost, however. To some people, saving feels like losing – “losing” money that could be spent. So assert Ellen Rogin and Lisa Kueng, authors of a recently published book entitled Picture Your Prosperity: Smart Money Moves to Turn Your Vision into Reality. They cite a perceptual difference. If people are asked if they can save 20% of their income, the answer may be a resounding “no” – but if they are asked if they can live on 80% of their income, that may seem reasonable.1

There may be a gap between perception & behavior. Since 2001, Gallup has asked Americans a poll question: “Thinking about money for a moment, are you the type of person who more enjoys spending money or more enjoys saving money?”2

While more respondents have chosen “saving money” over “spending money” in every year the poll has been conducted, the difference in the responses never exceeded 5% from 2001-06. It hit 9% in 2009, and has been 18% or greater ever since. In 2014, 62% of respondents indicated they preferred to save instead of spend, with only 34% of respondents preferring spending.2

So are we a nation of good savers? Not to the degree that these poll results might suggest. The most recently available Commerce Department data (January 2015) shows the average personal savings rate at 5.5% - a percentage point higher than two years ago, but subpar historically. During the 1970s, the personal savings rate averaged 11.8%; in the 1990s, it averaged 6.7%.2,3

What reminders or actions might help people save more? Automated retirement plan contributions can assist the growth of savings, and are a means of paying oneself first. There is the envelope system, wherein a household divides its paycheck into figurative (or literal) envelopes, assigning X dollars per month to different packets representing different budget categories. When the envelopes are empty, you can spend no more. The psychology is never to empty the envelopes, of course – leaving a little aside each month that can be saved. Households take an incremental approach: they start by saving one or two cents of every dollar they make, then gradually increase that percentage, household expenses permitting.

Frugality may help as well. A decision to live on 70% or 80% of household income frees up some dollars for saving. Another route to building a nest egg is to invest (or at least save) the accumulated consumer savings you realize at the mall, the supermarket, the recycling center – even pocket change amassed over time.

How many households budget like businesses? Perhaps more should. A business owner, manager, or executive may realize savings through this approach. Take it line item by line item: spending $20 less each week at the supermarket translates to $1,040 saved annually.

Working with financial professionals may encourage greater savings. A 2014 study on workplace retirement plan participation from Natixis Global Asset Management had a couple of details affirming this. While employees who chose to go without input from a financial professional contributed an average of 7.8% of their incomes to their retirement plan accounts, employees who sought such input contributed an average of 9.5%. The study also learned that 74% of the employees who had turned to financial professionals understood how much money their accounts needed to amass for retirement, compared to 54% of employees not seeking such help.4  

Saving money should make anyone feel great. It means effectively “paying yourself” or at least building up cash on hand. A household with a save-first financial approach may find itself making progress toward near-term and long-term money goals.

  

 

This material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. This information has been derived from sources believed to be accurate. Please note - investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment. 

  

Citations.

1 - businessinsider.com/mental-trick-save-money-2015-1 [1/27/15]

2 - gallup.com/poll/168587/americans-continue-enjoy-saving-spending.aspx [4/21/14]

3 - bea.gov/newsreleases/national/pi/pinewsrelease.htm [3/2/15]

4 - bostonglobe.com/business/2014/09/06/advice-seekers-save-more-study-finds/dJmUUXz78twO9OxLcRTqdN/story.html [9/6/14]

Some investors have seen minimal returns compared to the benchmark. 

Diversification is essential, yet it comes with trade-offs. Investors are repeatedly urged to allocate portfolio assets across a variety of investment classes. This is fundamental; market shocks and month-to-month volatility may bring big losses to portfolios weighted too heavily in one or two classes.

 

Just as there is a potential upside to diversification, there is also a potential downside. It can expose a percentage of the portfolio to underperforming sectors of the market. Last year, that kind of exposure affected the returns of some prudent investors. 

 

Sometimes diversification hinders overall performance. The stock market has performed well of late, but very few portfolios have 100% allocation to stocks for sensible reasons. At times investors take a quick glance at stock index performance and forget that their return reflects the performance of multiple market segments. While the S&P 500 rose 11.39% in 2014 (13.69% with dividends), other asset classes saw minor returns or losses last year.1

  

As an example, Morningstar assessed fixed-income managers for 2014 and found a median return of just 2.35% for domestic high yield strategies. The Barclays U.S. Aggregate Bond Index advanced 5.97% in 2014 (that encompasses coupon payments and capital appreciation), while the Citigroup Non-U.S. World Government Bond index lost 2.68%.1,2

 

Turning to some very conservative options, the 10-year Treasury had a 2.17% yield on December 31, 2014; at the start of last year, it was yielding 3.00%. As March began, Bankrate found the annual percentage yield for a 1-year CD averaged 0.27% nationally, with the yields on 5-year CDs averaging 0.87%; last year’s average yields were similar.3,4

 

Oil’s poor 2014 affected numerous portfolios. Light sweet crude ended 2014 at just $53.27 on the NYMEX, going -45.42% on the year. (In 2008, prices peaked at $147 a barrel). Correspondingly, the Thomson Reuters/CRB Commodities Index, which tracks the 19 most watched commodity futures, dropped 17.9% in 2014 after slips of 5.0% in 2013, 3.4% in 2012 and 8.3% in 2011. At the end of last year, it was at the same level it had been at the end of 2008.5,6

 

The longstanding MSCI EAFE Index (which measures the overall performance of 21 Morgan Stanley Capital International indices in Europe and the Asia Pacific region) lost 7.35% for 2014. At the end of last year, it had returned an average of 2.34% across 2010-2014. So on the whole, equity indices in the emerging markets and the eurozone have not performed exceptionally well last year or over the past few years.7

     

All this is worth considering for investors wondering why their highly diversified, cautiously allocated portfolios lagged the main U.S. benchmark. It may also present a decent argument for tactical asset allocation – the intentional, responsive shift of percentages of portfolio assets into the best-performing sectors of the market. Whether an investor favors that kind of dynamic strategy or a buy-and-hold approach with a far-off time horizon in mind, it is inevitable that some portion of portfolio assets will be held in currently lagging or underperforming investment classes. This is one of the trade-offs of diversification. In some years – such as 2014 – being ably diversified may result in less-than-desired returns.

This material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. This information has been derived from sources believed to be accurate. Please note - investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.    

 

Citations.

1 - qz.com/320196/its-over-stocks-beat-bonds/ [1/2/15]

2 - tinyurl.com/oq6cb7w [2/23/15]

3 - treasury.gov/resource-center/data-chart-center/interest-rates/Pages/TextView.aspx?data=yieldYear&year=2014 [3/3/15]

4 - bankrate.com/funnel/cd-investments/cd-investment-results.aspx?prods=15,19 [3/3/15]

5 - money.cnn.com/data/commodities/ [12/31/14]

6 - nzherald.co.nz/business/news/article.cfm?c_id=3&objectid=11387661 [1/17/15]

7 - mscibarra.com/products/indices/international_equity_indices/gimi/stdindex/performance.html [12/

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