You can’t put a latte in the bank

June 5, 2007, 7:48 PM UTC
Fortune

If you haven’t checked out Damon Darlin’s column from this weekend (or your parents haven’t sent it to you already!), it might be a good idea to give “Your Money: More Advice Graduates Don’t Want to Hear” a look. Lots of you’ve written me to say you want to hear more about how to save and spend, so there’ll be much more to come about it on The Gig. But it seems from what Darlin says that, as interested as we are in theory, many of us don’t necessarily want to make the sacrifices to put good saving advice into practice — especially the advice he gave in a much e-mailed column around graduation time last year.

All in all, the recommendations were pretty straightforward: “It was mostly the simple things my mother had drummed into me,” he writes. “It was advice like diverting 10 percent of your income to savings before anything else and ignoring raises and putting them into savings, too. Learn to cook, I said, and never borrow money to pay for a depreciating asset. I also suggested cutting out the latte habit, which was my symbol for those little things in life that when turned into a habit, add up to money that could have been spent on something worthwhile and memorable.”

Apparently, the latte is sacred to some of us. And others said that putting aside 10% — which Darlin estimates works out to $52 a week for someone making $40,000 a year — is a stretch, particularly for those living in cities like New York. (A publicist in Atlanta once told me that for what I paid to live in a sixth-floor walk-up in Manhattan’s West Village, I “could have Ludacris’s house” down there.)

But the benefits are many. “Bank $250 a month for 40 years in a I.R.A. or a 401(k) and you will receive about $500,000, assuming a 6 percent return,” Darlin writes. “Start at age 45 and you would have to put in $1,078 a month to generate the same amount by age 65.”

Seems like a no-brainer. And while the pressures of big-city rent, hanging out, and all the other things we sometimes feel we’d die without are also numerous, I’d hazard a guess that money in the bank will mean more to our 65-year-old selves than designer shoes, ginormous TVs and other indulgences mean to us now. (Really, how many times have I heard a female friend here say she forsook saving, food, or even rent for a pair of shoes she just had to have? You laugh, but it happens here more than anyone would like to admit. I’m ashamed for all of us.)

Bottom line: Let’s keep dutifully saving — with automatic deductions, of course, so we can’t cheat as easily — if at all possible. Doable, or not so much?