There’s a hot new consumer finance survey to help us all put our behaviors into perspective.
Fact: Retirement saving is simple, like losing weight. Sadly, like with shedding pounds, most people just won’t do it. The cheesecake equivalents look too tempting.
Investing is slightly more complicated, like appropriate exercises that won’t injure you. But with investing, smarts or cleverness aren’t as key as wisdom — which is why brilliant 20-somethings on Wall Street screw up every decade and always have. They can’t prioritize wisdom over IQ.
Self-analysis is often off the mark. Otherwise, most folk’s finances would work perfectly since they would fix what wasn’t working for them. I can’t tell you how to see yourself correctly. But I can tell you how others see themselves. Then you can ponder how different you are, or aren’t.
So, where do you fit in? The new survey, called “Financial Fails ” tells the tale. For example, 20 percent of us openly admit to spending more than we earn every month. Cheesecaked! Less than one-third of us put money monthly into retirement accounts. Worse, amazingly, 12 percent of us shop online drunk. Hooched! You can’t make this stuff up.
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Seventy percent claim to know what we make and spend — implying 30 percent don’t. Then, 25 percent don’t have a savings account, 28 percent haven’t a basic investment account, and almost 80 percent of workers don’t have a 401(k).
All this you can fix yourself. It’s simple self-discipline. I’ve written lots here on 401(k)s. In this super strong economy for employment, stronger than any in decades, if your firm doesn’t have a 401(k) you should job hop elsewhere for one, while the hopping is good.
So how do you compare to others when it comes to financial behavior?. Yes, there are exceptional entrepreneurs who create super wealth. But if that’s not you, you need to build the foundation for a sturdy retirement.
Seventy-eight percent of us worry often or sometimes about our financial situation. Generally, worrying accomplishes nothing. Part of it comes from a lack of knowledge. Here things get wacky. Categorically younger people think they understand investing. As we age our confidence in fathoming investing shrinks. That’s gaining wisdom! Behavioral scientists have long demonstrated humans tend toward overconfidence and that overconfidence wrecks investing.
Not only do 80 percent of people 25 to 34 years old think they understand investing — 80 percent of people 18 to 24 do, too. That is simply scary because as Bill Baldwin, my former Editor at Forbes magazine, always said, “Most investment mistakes are self-inflicted.”
In total, 30 percent of us don’t think we know how to invest. It isn’t surprising then that 29 percent of us have a financial adviser and 71 percent of us don’t. But unless you’re in the top several percent of us in wealth you probably don’t need an adviser. Over the course of any year there is more than enough right here in USA TODAY’s Money section to educate you on building the basics you need — and how to invest it all without being overly complicated.
After that it’s up to you; just like diet and exercise.
Ken Fisher is founder and executive chairman of Fisher Investments, author of 11 books, four of which were New York Times bestsellers, and is No. 200 on the Forbes 400 list of richest Americans. Follow him on Twitter: @KennethLFisher
The views and opinions expressed in this column are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect those of USA TODAY.
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