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The Hidden Return of Saving Revealed

It’s best to think of savings as a hedge against life’s ability to surprise the hell out of you at the worst possible time, writes Victoria Harris.

17 October 2023

Some people save money for a deposit on a house, or a new car, or retirement. That’s great, of course, but saving shouldn’t always require a goal of purchasing something specific or tangible.

You can save for savings sake, and indeed you should. Everyone should.

Saving for a specific goal makes sense in a predictable world, but ours isn’t. No-one could have predicted a global pandemic lasting nearly three years or that this year NZ would experience one of the worst flooding events in its history. The world, and our lives, are unpredictable.

It’s best to think of savings as a hedge against life’s inevitable ability to surprise the hell out of you at the worst possible time. Trust me, there have been multiple times throughout my life when I have been SO incredibly thankful I have had savings. Like the time I put my back out and needed to pay for emergency physio, or when I popped a tyre and my washing machine broke the same day. Having savings in these unpredictable situations was priceless.

Another benefit of saving that isn’t attached to any spending goal is that you get to gain control over your time.

Everyone knows the tangible stuff money buys; the new shoes, the nice meal out or the latest iPhone. The intangible stuff is harder to wrap your head around, so it tends to go unnoticed.

But the intangible benefits of money can be far more valuable and capable of increasing your happiness than the tangible things that are more obvious targets of savings.

The gift of time

Savings without a specific goal also give you options and flexibility; the ability to wait and the opportunity to pounce. It gives you time to think. It lets you change course on your own terms.

We aren’t saying you should get rid of your savings goals or never have any: If you’re a visual person and you need that screensaver of a tropical island to help you save for a holiday, do it. Or if you need to label certain bank accounts as “wedding” or “new car” to motivate you, do it. It’s better to save something than nothing at all.

When it comes to savings, every little bit is like taking a point in the future that would have been owned by someone else and giving it back to yourself.

That flexibility and control over your time is the unseen return on wealth. It’s unquantifiable.

When you don’t have control over your time, you’re forced to accept whatever bad luck is thrown your way. But if you have flexibility, you have the time to wait for no-brainer opportunities to fall in your lap or go after opportunities you might never have gone after.

This is the hidden return on your savings.

Savings generate an extraordinary return that is hard to calculate. Savings might give you the flexibility to take on that lower paying job which is more aligned with your values. Savings might give you the ability to pay a deposit on a new rental in a much safer neighbourhood. Savings might allow you to pay for a flight home when a family member is sick.

Having more control over your time and options is becoming one of the most valuable currencies in the world. That’s why most people can, and more people should, save money.

Informed Investor's content comes from sources that Informed Investor magazine considers accurate, but we do not guarantee its accuracy. Charts in Informed Investor are visually indicative, not exact. The content of Informed Investor is intended as general information only, and you use it at your own risk.


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