- People who save more than 20% of their income make a few critical decisions with their money, a TDAmeritrade survey found.
- These "super savers" are more likely to avoid high-interest debt, stick to a budget, invest in the stock market, and max out their retirement savings.
- They also started investing before age 30 and tend to spend less of their budget on rent or a mortgage than the average person.
When you compare people who save a ton of their income with the rest of us, the decisions that led them there become pretty clear.
In a recent survey, TDAmeritrade asked 1,500 Americans with investable assets of at least $250,000 about their saving strategies. About 20% of this group are "super savers" who save or invest an average of 29% of their income, while everyone else saves an average of just 6%.
Three in four super savers are either financially independent — meaning they don’t need to work to live — or are on their way, the survey found. Some even retired early.
As it turns out, "super savers" prioritize four key decisions others are less likely to: They avoid high-interest debt, stick to a budget, invest in the stock market, and max out their retirement savings.
Here’s a bit more about each:
Avoid high-interest debt
The TDAmeritrade survey found that 65% of super savers avoid high-interest debt, compared to 56% of others.
Living above your means and overspending is a way to ensure you’ll never build wealth. Debt isn’t all bad, but the kind that comes with interest rates above 10%, like debt owed on most credit cards, is best avoided.
People who build their own wealth, financial planner Eric Roberge wrote, "don’t spend money they don’t have, period."
Stick to a budget
Keeping track of your cash flow, whether you call it a budget or not, is critical to getting your savings rate where you want it.
TDAmeritrade found 60% of super savers adhere to a budget, while 49% of others do the same. Perhaps more importantly, the super savers allocate less of their budget toward housing, spending nearly 10% less than the average person.
Interestingly, super savers and average savers spend the same amount of their budget, about 7%, on travel.
Invest in the stock market
Fifty-eight percent of super savers invest in the stock market, compared to 34% of others, and they got in early. More than half (54%) of super savers who invest started before age 30, the survey revealed, while only 40% of others did the same.
Super savers are far more likely than non-super savers to invest in the stock market through brokerage accounts (65% vs. 35%) and retirement accounts (90% vs. 65%). The key to making these investments worthwhile is ensuring they’re low-cost and diversified.
Max out retirement savings
According to TDAmeritrade’s survey, the best savers make use of both tax-advantaged and non-tax advantaged retirement accounts. More than half of the best savers have money invested in a 401(k), a traditional IRA, and a Roth IRA.
Money funneled into 401(k)s and IRAs can result in significant tax savings. These accounts take contributions pre-tax, so they effectively reduce a person’s taxable income. Plus, they’ll grow tax-free for years before retirement. In 2019, you can contribute up to $19,000 to a 401(k) and $6,000 (plus another $1,000 if you’re over 50) to IRAs.
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