Why Smart Savings Plans are Boring: An Interview with Bargaineering’s Jim Wang

The road to wealth isn’t necessarily built on risky investments and financial gambles. Sure, the fast track can be more exciting. But it can also be plenty dangerous. Sometimes the slowest path – as in methodical, secure saving – is the smartest one.

We asked Bargaineering founder Jim Wang to explain why the most boring savings plans can actually be the smartest. He answered that, and other questions, below.

On December 31, 1999, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was 11,497.12. Exactly 10 years later – on December 31, 2009, the Dow Jones Industrial Average only hit 10,428.05. So the entire ’00s was basically a wash when it came to the stock market. What does that tell us?

That tells us that the stock market is volatile and asset allocation is absolutely crucial.

For someone who just started working in 1999, it’s okay if most of your retirement assets are put in the stock market. After ten years, you might have lost some money but you’d still have 30 to 40 years in your career. For someone in their 40’s or 50’s back in 1999, the loss is disastrous because they don’t have as many years to recover.

It’s important to properly allocate your retirement assets because the stock market has shown that it can provide solid returns in the long run, but the ride is

quite bumpy.

What do we need to be careful of when it comes to investments and financial gambles?

First, recognize financial gambles as gambles. Buying a hot technology stock because you think it’ll go up in price is a gamble. You should treat it like such. How much are you willing to lose in a trip to Las Vegas? Commit that much to any financial gamble.

So why are smart savings plans so boring?

Buying a lottery ticket is exciting. Investing in a hot technology IPO is exciting. They’re exciting because you make a decision and you can see the results fairly quickly.

Smart savings plans are boring because they take a long time. Your 401(k) is a smart savings plan and it’s boring because you commit a small amount each month and, hopefully, the balance grows very slowly. Everyone wants to bet on the hare, but it’s the tortoise that wins.

How do savings plans fit into wealth-building?

The reality is that you can’t accumulate wealth if you aren’t saving your money.

Do you have a strategy that guarantees maximum money-growth through saving?

It depends on what you are saving for. If your goals are very short term, stick with an online savings account or certificates of deposit. If your goals are several years into the future, you can consider investing in bonds or the stock market. There’s no strategy that guarantees maximum growth but anything is better than 0 percent in a checking account.

How does your savings portfolio fit into your overall money-growth strategy? What are your savings goals?

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