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Who Is Responsible?

 January 17, 2013 02:48 PM

Yesterday someone tweeted out this link about a survey on attitudes toward how financial matters like saving money should be taught and who is responsible for related issues. One question in particular asked "who do you feel is most responsible for seeing to it that you build enough savings to retire comfortably?"

The answer breakdown of those surveyed was "you alone" 36%, "company by way of a pension plan" 3%, "Federal government through Social Security" 3%, "all three equally" 58%. While I realize the manner in which the question was asked and the choices given could have skewed the result but if the question really is who is responsible then the 36% number is disappointingly low.

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While we may be entitled to Social Security, the payout (assuming benefits don't get cut) simply is not large enough for "retire comfortably." It is arguable whether it is enough for the basics. By the way I do believe benefits will be cut one way or another which is all the less reason why social security can't allow for comfortable.

But it is quite clear that Social Security is not enough for the basics and the various types of one-off  financial events that cannot be precisely budgeted for (this includes vet bills, new tires, burst water pipes and many others).

Another question was shorter and simpler about whether the administration should make it a national priority to encourage savings and I think it should. While I think I am far from a big government guy I do like the idea of promoting education and maybe ramping up the incentives for more saving. To me this is providing the opportunity for people to do for themselves.

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As a matter of philosophy I am very motivated to be financially self-sufficient. My definition of this is high savings rate, low expenses, little or no debt and the ability to financially withstand a reasonable financial shock. This does not have to mean being rich, my wife and I meet no definition of being rich, not even Obama's first definition but we save a lot, have low expenses and could last for a while in the face of a financial shock.

It seems as though there is not enough sense of financial self-stewardship among Americans, maybe due to a lack of financial education, which will either prevent us from doing the difficult things that many people believe need to be done (financial NIMBY) or will create a horrible shock to many Americans if we actually do the difficult things.

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