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Could you be saving so much for retirement that you’re missing out on living your best life now?

A reader whose friends recently died prematurely wonders whether too much attention is placed on saving for the future and not enough on enjoying today.  (iStock)
A reader whose friends recently died prematurely wonders whether too much attention is placed on saving for the future and not enough on enjoying today. (iStock)
July 15, 2019 at 8:00 AM EDT

I hate spending any money mostly because I’m worried I won’t have enough for retirement.

As my friends talk about the music concerts they’ve seen or the excursions they’ve taken to see Broadway shows, I wonder: Am I missing out on too much?

It’s not that I don’t have fun. I do. I see a movie in the theater — as opposed to just on Netflix — every few months. My family takes a two-week vacation every year to nice locations with five-star accommodations.

However, the rest of the year when people are inviting me to various events, I’m all, “What? That’s just too much money!”

During a recent online discussion, a reader questioned her penny pinching. She wondered whether she would even live long enough to enjoy the fruits of her frugality.


Q: This might seem silly, but I am struggling with living for today, and saving for the future. I am 53, married. We recently have lost three friends in their late 50s and early 60s, and while I’m grieving, I am also a little concerned that all the extreme saving and mortgage-paying-off-early may be for nothing if something happens to us, too. What do you think?


A: I’m a pragmatist and I often live for the future at the expense of the present. Because there will come a day when I won’t be working for any number of reasons. So, my financial philosophy is save like the tomorrow is today.


Polls continue to show a lot of folks won’t have enough to retire comfortably. Yet many Americans are overconfident about what they will have for retirement.

Fifty-seven percent of nonretirees anticipate a comfortable retirement, according to a recent poll by Gallup.

But here’s the reality that will smack them in the face.

Thirty-three percent of nonretirees expect to rely on Social Security as their main source of income. In fact, 57 percent of retirees end up with Social Security being their major source of income. That’s a huge gap between reality and optimism especially when you consider that the estimated average monthly benefit for all retired workers in May was $1,469, according to the Social Security Administration.


“While overall retirement expectations may be rosier, only one-quarter of Americans who are employed or have an employed spouse say they are currently saving enough for retirement,” Megan Brenan, a research consultant at Gallup, wrote in a post about the latest poll.

Then there is the cost of health care to consider.

A study by West Health and Gallup released earlier this year found in the past 12 months seniors have withdrawn an estimated $22 billion from their long-term savings to pay for health-care-related expenses.

Americans borrowed an estimated $88 billion last year to pay for needed health care, according to the report “The U.S. Healthcare Cost Crisis.” Nearly 3 million seniors borrowed $10,000 or more to pay for health care in the past year.


An estimated 7.5 million seniors can’t afford the prescribed medication they need for serious health conditions.


And let’s not forget the crisis with Social Security.

The reserves for the Old-Age and Survivors Insurance Trust Fund (OASI), which pays retirement and survivor benefits, will be unable to pay full benefits in 2034, according to the 2019 trustee report for the Social Security and Medicare trust funds. Without a fix, OASI will have only enough continuing tax income to pay out 77 percent of scheduled payments.


Okay, enough of the doom and gloom. Back to the question, which is really about the fear of missing out or “FOMO” as the young folks call it.

I struggle with spending more but it is important to build into your budget -- as you’re saving for retirement and other financial priorities -- funds for fun. (If you’re behind in your retirement savings or you have a lot of non-mortgage debt, no, you can’t take that vacation.)


The key is to strike a balance between saving for tomorrow and enjoying life today. Even as you see more contemporaries pass away earlier than expected, you have to realize that it’s still statistically likely that you will live a long life. So, ask yourself: What happens if I live?


The answer: You’ll need financial resources to live your best life in retirement.

For tips on how to live it up without going broke before you die, read: Rich retirees can’t switch off their savings mode

Read more:

Your Thoughts

Are you concerned that you’re so tight with your money that you aren’t having enough fun? Send your comments to In the subject line put “FOMO.”


Retirement Rants and Raves

I’m interested in your experiences or concerns about retirement or aging. What do you like about retirement? What came as a surprise?


If you haven’t retired yet, what concerns you financially?

You can rant or rave. This space is yours. It’s a chance for you to express what’s on your mind. Send your comments to Please include your name, city and state. In the subject line put “Retirement Rants and Raves.”

In last week’s newsletter, I discussed the increase in scams where con artists pretend to represent a government agency. Most recently, the IRS issued a consumer alert about an uptick in a scheme in which crooks pretend to be calling from the Social Security Administration (SSA). The scammers try to get folks to believe their Social Security number has been supposedly suspended.


You get a robocall stating that there’s been suspicious activity linked to your Social Security number. You’re told that if you don’t immediately call the telephone number left on our voice mail your Social Security number will be “suspended.” Often the scammers demand victims purchase gift cards to “reactivate” their number.

I asked readers: Have you experienced an increase in impostor calls?

“Received about a half-dozen calls yesterday morning and it's starting again today,” one reader wrote. “It's like a weed that you can't kill!”

“Yup, happened to me,” another person wrote. “I was frantic. They left me a voice mail telling me to immediately call them back because my social security number had been suspended. I have already been the victim of multiple incidents of identity theft and even had my social security benefits stolen off my direct express card. So when I received a call from ‘Social Security’ saying my social security number had been suspended I told my sister immediately. She works in IT security and she spotted the scam immediately. She told me not to call them back and that it was definitely fraud. I didn’t call them back and haven’t heard back. I wanted to report them, but there is so much fraud, who do you tell?”


The FTC also has a dedicated site specifically for Social Security scams:

Another reader wrote: “I was scammed a couple months ago by someone pretending to be from the Social Security Administration. They were very good and aggressive. They threaten to call the cops. So I gave out my personal information. They were able to use my identity to make unauthorized transactions on my debit card.”

To help prevent others from becoming victims please read this and share : No, that’s not the government calling threatening to ‘suspend’ your Social Security number.

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Read and share Michelle Singletary’s Color of Money Column on Wednesdays and Sundays in The Washington Post. You may also see the column in your local newspaper.

Follow Michelle Singletary on Twitter @SingletaryM and Facebook.


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Summary | 2 Annotations
retire comfortably. Yet many Americans are overconfident about what they will have for retirement.
2019/07/15 15:12
-- as you’re saving for retirement and other financial priorities -
2019/07/15 15:12