The Secrets of Super Savers

Carleton McHenry, CFP®
McHenry Capital, LLC

Financial pundits often espouse the theory that the road to a financially secure retirement is paved with foregone cups of coffee and avocado toast.

The idea is that by eliminating life’s little pleasures and saving a few dollars each day, especially at early ages, money will compound into a handsome nest egg. However, a new study demonstrates that this idea is largely wrong.


A failure to save is pandemic in the U.S. One in five Americans report not saving anything whatsoever, and another 21% save less than 5% of their income. Many experts advise saving at least 15% of your income. Just 16% of Americans reach this threshold.1


So how to save more? A recent survey2 of Americans who are really good at saving helps reveal best practices to achieve financial peace of mind throughout retirement. The survey was conducted among two groups, dubbed Super Savers and Pre-Super Savers. These groups save 90 to 100 percent of the max contribution, or 15 percent of their income (Super Savers), or 70 to 89 percent of the max contribution, or 13 to 14.99 percent of income (Pre-Super Savers). In other words, they consistently save a lot.


The good news is that these elite savers still enjoy life’s little indulgences. Only 5 percent claimed to splurge on nothing. Super Savers say they still pay for subscription entertainment services (46 percent), travel (46 percent), dining out more than once or twice a week (39 percent), getting coffee on the go (20 percent), and purchasing the latest technology (15 percent).


So where do these Super Savers really shine? Much of their savings come out of the big items. The most common sacrifices, according to the survey, include driving older vehicles, owning a modest home, not traveling as much as they’d prefer, doing DIY projects instead of hiring help, and going without a housecleaner.


Of course, saving on items both big and small can accelerate your retirement savings even more. But the biggest gains, according to this study, is reducing spending on items whose price tags are in five or six figures, not one or two.


Becoming a great saver is also a matter of creating new habits and ways of thinking about spending and satisfaction. To get on the road to successful saving, experts provide the following tips:

  • Set and achieve a savings goal. Your first step can be creating an emergency fund to help you get through difficult times, or if you lose your job or if you face unexpected expenses. Many experts recommend accumulating savings of six months of income.

  • Save every day. Consistently saving, and measuring how much you save each day, can help make saving a lifelong habit. Rewarding yourself with some extra indulgences if you save consistently for ten, fifty, or hundred days can help make your achievement tangible and encourage continued saving.

  • Automate your savings. Opting into a retirement savings account is an easy way to ensure you save a portion of your income every paycheck. Other tools automatically save a percentage of what you spend, or shift money into savings accounts.


The bottom line: savers are often portrayed as stingy, joyless people. But people who are good savers can also be be the ones who treat themselves when they choose, have a fun and rewarding retirement, and be generous with their family and community. A little sacrifice now isn't really much of a sacrifice when you envision the rewards that lie ahead.

I would like to learn more about...

Strategies to increase savings and optimize investments

Preparing for retirement

Managing savings and assets during retirement

By submitting this form, you agree to receive an email response from

McHenry Capital, LLC

explore your life stages and events

Explore key stages and events in your life, such as marriage, parenthood, empty nesting, retirement, grandparenthood, and caregiving with a 15-20 minute questionnaire. You will receive a personalized Life Stage Profile and Road Map to help you navigate life's financial opportunities and challenges.


1.  Bankrate, Despite an improving economy, 20% of Americans aren’t saving any money, 2018

2.  Principal, 2019 Super Saver Survey 

3. The Street, "How Much Does a Divorce Cost on Average in 2019?", March 2019

4. US Census, Marriage and Divorce

This publication is designed to provide general information and is for discussion purposes only. The effectiveness of any strategy is dependent upon each individual’s facts and circumstances. This article does not provide legal, tax or account advice. Because of the possibility of human or mechanical error, the accuracy, adequacy, completeness or availability of any information is not guaranteed.